Mince and Tatties
Mince and tatties is to Scotland what pasta and ragù is to Italy, so we should be proud of this national dish. Mince and tatties is comfort food at its best. It is what everybody’s granny made for them, so offering a recipe can be a tricky business for everyone has their own way of making it.
The recipe below comes from F. Marian McNeill’s classic text on Scottish cookery The Scots Kitchen (1929). ‘Minced Collops’ as she describes is ‘an everyday Scottish dish’. I really like her idea of adding a little oatmeal towards the end to thicken the it. If you lightly toast the oatmeal in a dry pan beforehand it is an especially good addition.
Carrots that have been split down the middle and boiled in with the mince are a good addition. My grandmother used to cook whole peeled onions with the mince until they were meltingly soft – an inspired idea. Very old recipes suggest eating this dish with pickles. If you are a fan of pickles then beetroot or red cabbage works extremely well. The Cleikum Club, in Sir Walter Scott’s novel St Ronan’s Well considered themselves gourmands and abhored the idea of having pickled vegetables with stewed meat. They thought it ‘semi-barbarous’, despite the admission that this practise was commonly seen in Scotch cookery books.
It is usually mashed potatoes that goes with mince and tatties, however a nice idea is to serve whole boiled and peeled potatoes with the mince. Then you can mash the butter into the potatoes with your fork at the table.
Recipe for Mince and Tatties
Ingredients (Serves 2 – 3 people)
500g minced beef (not too lean)
1 medium white onion
1 scant tbsp medium ground oatmeal
1 tbsp beef dripping (beef dripping gives a good flavour and it has a high burning point)
250ml beef stock (a dark beer such as a stout is a good substitute)
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce)
Melt the fat over a high heat in a large heavy based pot to get the fat smoking hot. Fry the onions for 1 minute stirring continuously. Add the beef and spread it out over the base of the pot. Leave it for 1 minute to brown. Now you can start breaking it up. You want to cook this, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes over a high heat to get a good colour on the beef and onion mixture. A little sticking is good too, you will get a richer flavour.
Now pour in the stock, water, mushroom ketchup and a pinch of salt. Cover with the lid ajar and simmer very slowly over a low heat for 45 minutes.
Stir in the oatmeal and cook until it is fairly thick (this takes roughly 15 minutes). Season with lots of black pepper and a good grating of nutmeg if you like it. Check for salt. Of course, all dishes like this tastes even better the next day.