The ‘Auld Alliance’ with France in 1295 that would last over 250 years brought much more than just armed assistance to Scotland. The food and wine flavours of that country would last within the Scottish cuisine and in the Scottish dialect far longer than the armed support of our Gallic cousins. Cooking terms and traditional Scottish dishes such as ashet, hotch potch, collops and gigot are all derived from French. Surely Charles de Gaulle’s thanks to the nation in an Edinburgh address ‘what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous than yours with its friendship’ must be reciprocated in so many ways. However, it is one dish, stovies, which probably sits above all others in the Scots psyche. A dish so seemingly Scottish that you wonder where the French influence can possibly have come from as it is hard to imagine walking into a Parisian fine dining establishment and saying to the waiter ‘gies a plate o’ stovies’!
Nevertheless the word stovies comes from étuves, to stew in its own juices and it is the perfect recipe for leftover roast meat. To the extent I will cook a roast a day or two before Hogmanay just so that I can have stovies just after the bells. Just about every home in Scotland will have a different recipe for this dish but when I was young my Mother would stew potatoes, carrots, onion and turnip in gravy and then add the leftover chopped lamb at the end to warm through. This is where I have returned after many iterations although I prefer to use mutton for a deeper flavour. I leave the carrots in here for authenticity of childhood memory and out when I cook. I can’t abide cooked carrots.
2 onions roughly chopped
1/2 turnip (swede) roughly diced
2 medium potatoes roughly diced
1-2 carrots sliced (optional)
2 stock cubes in 500ml water or 400ml homemade beef stock
300-500g cooked meat roughly chopped (lamb, mutton or beef)
1. Add all the vegetables and stock to a heavy based pot and bring gently to the boil then turn down to a simmer.
2. Continue to simmer until potatoes and turnip are cooked and carrot and onion softened
3. Add the meat and stir through, heat gently for a couple of minutes to warm the meat through
4. Serve in bowls, ideally with warm bread and a dram of whisky