The Irish have their Stew, the Lancashire types their Hotpot. And Liverpudlians have Scouse. It’s part of the fabric of the city, a major component of what makes those who live in this corner of the North West of England who they are. Ostensibly, there’s no real difference between these dishes bar their construction; all three being a simple combination of lamb, or beef, potatoes and a few root veg chucked in for good measure.
But, if you’re being poncey, you could say that there’s something about the Merseyside terroir that makes Scouse unique to Liverpool, and therefore so much more than just a mere meat stew. Sometimes there is nothing more comforting than a heaped bowl of the stuff, particularly on a bitterly cold Winter’s day when the wind comes whipping off the Mersey.
Of course, Scouse isn’t a native Liverpool dish. Like many things you’ll find in this city, it’s an immigrant that has been taken in and brought close to Liverpudlian’s hearts. According to folklore (by which I mean the Global Scouse Day Twitter account), every 28 February, Scousers from across the globe all cook up a pan of stew to remind them of home.
As I have come to realise while trying to formulate my own recipe for the stuff, every bowl of Scouse is different – and every Scouser you meet will invariably have their own opinion on what ingredients it should contain. Some people say you should use only lamb, others that a proper Scouse should always contain peas. And then there are folk who will swear blind that it’s a lump of swede that provides it with that certain something.
However, usually agreed that the core components of Scouse are lamb or mutton – cut into chunks, and never minced- potatoes, carrots, onions, beef stock and a few generous dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. All of these are thrown into a pot and cooked together until the potatoes break down and the gravy is able to coat the back of a spoon. Again, there’s a fair bit of argument about whether Scouse should be a thick or thin stew, but you’ll find few people who would argue against it being served up with pickled red cabbage or beetroot, and plenty of bread to mop it up with.
You can get Scouse of all shapes and sizes in restaurants across the city – from the simple, homely version served up in Maggie May’s on Bold Street to the rather more exotic Catalan Scouse you’ll find in Lunya (which contains both chorizo and blood pudding). My first introduction to Scouse came when I’d been living in Liverpool for only a few months.
It was an achingly cold February day and the canteen in my office was closed. I ran across the road to the café situated in the Anglican cathedral and devoured a bowl of the stuff whilst watching flakes of snow drift slowly across Hope Street. Warm, rich and soothing, it made me immediately feel comforted and at home. It was the first time I really felt in love with Liverpool – although it certainly hasn’t been the last.
So, on this Global Scouse Day, I shall be boiling up a pot of Liverpool’s finest culinary creation in tribute. And it’ll be proper boss.