Scottish heritage recipes – Mince and tatties

IMG_3039For 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.

Mince and Tatties

Serves 4

1 kg beef mince
2 onions roughly chopped
2 carrots sliced
4 tsp gravy salt or 4 beef stock cubes
Small handful rice

Method

1. Add all the ingredients into a heavy based pot and add water to just cover.

2. Over a medium heat bring to simmering point and simmer until vegetables are tender

3. Correct for seasoning and serve with a large dollop of creamy mashed potatoes

About Graeme

I want to tell the world of the natural larder and eclectic cuisine of Scotland

8 Comments

  1. I have mince n tatties post brewing in the far reaches of my mind! However, my 80s childhood varied a little from yours! The tatties of my mother and granny were never mashed, allowing us the luxury of mashing them into the gravy with the back of the forks; bliss. Also, my Hebridean matriarchs couldn’t countenance mince without a generous splash of Lea&perrins! It’s certainly a family favorite with my (English) husband and now our daughter, but I’d never thought of making it a Monday tradition… I might just adopt that!

  2. One of my VERY favourite meals and you make it look fabulous! Happy New Year Graeme! Karen

  3. I never knew you could still get gravy salt. Thought it was extinct!

  4. “STICK ANOTHER CUP OF WATTER IN THE MINCE MOTHER, WE’VE GOT VISITORS!!”

  5. Beautiful story and such a simple and wholesome recipe – I love the fact that nearly every cuisine has a form of mince that conjures memories of love, family and togetherness. it’s the nature of the dish – comfort and safely resonates. Pakistani cuisine is filled with mince dishes but my personal favourite is Dam ka Keema which is smoked beef mince, reminds me of my gran, just as your recipe does x

  6. yum yum yum yum yum, I would eat mince and tatties seven nights a week, love the stuff but it has to be good quality steak mince. To me its not the same with turkey or lamb mince.
    I fry mine off before I add the water ( just as my mother did) and I add a handful of red lentils not rice to eek it out.

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