In Search Of Scouse
When I was little I used to stand beside my Mum and watch her make the evening meal. This was in the 1950s, mind you, and she hadn't yet returned to work, so you could tell what day of the week it was by what turned up on the table at night.
Monday was 'scouse day'. Scouse, of course, is a stew, and Mum's parents were both of Liverpool Irish descent, so I reckon she had some idea of what went into the dish. But she never actually wrote it down, so what follows is simply the product of what was imprinted on my memory after countless Mondays.
The first thing to understand is that Monday was washing day. Mum 'slaved over a hot stove' all day doing the washing (no automatics in those days), but the upside of that was that she could be there all day in the kitchen to check the scouse, too. The dish always used leftover roast from the weekend, and since our family was never presented with any roast meat that wasn't fairly cremated, the starting meat was pretty solid. It didn't matter what the meat was, though, although it usually seemed to be beef, sometimes lamb; only rarely pork. Frankly it didn't seem to matter much.
I don't remember much onion going in, but that was probably because Mum hated peeling onions because they made her cry, so she personally would have kept them to a minimum. You can put in as much as you like, it pads the rest out. Or leeks.
Mum then piled in the onion, some peeled potato, chopped carrots and a little turnip (the English call them swedes), although today I'd add parsnips, too. She added some bacon fat (butter, even oil could be substituted), then covered it with stock. The whole thing would then be cooked on an incredibly low heat for a couple of hours before adding the meat in chunks. She achieved the low heat by putting the gas on its lowest heat, and also using an asbestos mat.
The scouse was cooked all day, and by tea-time it was a bit of a mush, but it was a popular meal. The pan took ages to clean.
2 large onions/leeks
3 large carrots
1 half turnip/neep/tumshie/swede
500g leftover roast meat
3 Oxo cubed, or stock cubes to match the roast meat
125g butter, bacon fat, or oil
Seasoning to taste, esp. black pepper
Take a seriously large pan, probably the one you make soup in. Non-stick is very, very good.
Peel and chop the vegetables roughly; this is going to collapse anyway. Soften the onions slightly in the fat, then add the other vegetables all at once, coating them with the fat from the onions. Crumble over the Oxo cubes then cover with boiling water. Bring back to the boil then simmer on the lowest heat you have for two, perhaps three hours, checking the pan every 30 minutes or so to ensure it isn't sticking.
After 2-3 hours add the meat, chopped a little smaller than the vegetables, stir it around carefully and add perhaps a little salt and humungus amounts of pepper. It takes at least another 2 hours, but frankly it's supposed to be a muddy sort of soup-stew by the time it's finished.
You'll have the idea by now. Fiddle with it any way you like. Winter green vegetable go really well with this – brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, or my personal favourite, spring greens.