Scottish heritage recipes – Mince and tatties
For children of my generation and older growing up in the west of Scotland there must surely have been no meal as ubiquitous and warming as mince and tatties. Whenever I think back to meals in my early years it’s hard to remember any set dishes that we would have had regularly, except this one. It must be no coincidence that Monday and Mince begin with the same letter because they were as inextricably linked in my 1980s childhood as Sooty and Sweep, Torvill and Dean or Del and Rodney. Whether it was my Mum cooking or my Gran when she looked after me there was always a huge pile of mashed potatoes alongside minced beef stewed with vegetables in gravy. Whether the gravy was thick and mixed in with the potatoes or the holy grail of being thin enough to soak up with a ‘piece’ I honestly cannot recall this simple dish ever disappointing.
I have no idea when the dish became popular but undoubtedly it would originally have been made with the cheapest cuts of beef being minced, possibly to reduce cooking time and make the meat go further. It’s such a staple dish in Glasgow that when Tony Roper wrote his play The Steamie about the women in a Glasgow wash house there was a scene about mince and tatties where the women discuss ‘Galloways’ mince passionately, harking back to the day when the name of the butcher was attached as a vital piece of information. Oh for those days of provenance and customer service. In this age of ‘lean steak’ mince the cheaper nature of the meal maybe doesn’t hold sp true, but if you leave it overnight and it doesn’t have any fat on top when you return to heat it up I feel you’re kind of missing the point.
This recipe is as close as can be recalled to that which my Gran used. Again there are many variations that people will make, whether incorporating turnip, peas, beans or a thickening spoon of cornflour to those listed below. My Gran used a spoon of rice to bulk a little and go further, and like the dent in a new still at a distillery which has no measurable value to the final flavour, I leave it out at my peril for fear of altering either flavour or memory.