les dennis scouse

Winter, in Liverpool, is great for one reason: the joy of a pan of scouse. For Global Scouse Day, Joe Shooman spoke to two of the city’s lesser-celebrated culinary creatives: Les Dennis and Kaya.

scouseThe dish that gave Liverpudlians their curious name has as many recipes as there are scouse mams. But where did this welcoming, warming, life-affirming dish originate?

We asked Garston’s finest upcoming chef, Les Dennis, for his take on it.

“It is a winter, heartwarming stew; I remember we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I had a paper round and the Echo on a Friday night was really heavy so I’d come home in the freezing cold, warming myself under the storage heater. Often we’d have blind scouse – the vegetarian option,” he laughed.

When there was meat, he said, it ‘had to to be lamb, doesn’t it?’ and a mass of root veg to warm you up.

Lamb, eh? How many of today’s scouse servings will choose mutton over beef, we wonder?

“And a lovely bit of crusty bread. But no garlic – we didn’t have that when I was a kid,” he noted.

Most cultures in Northern Europe have a meat stew – Liverpool’s links with Ireland, for example, could give a clue to Scouse’s origin. However, it is to Scandinavia that Les attributes the evolution of what in Norwegian is called ‘labskaus,’ or ‘lapskaus,’ depending on geography.

Unknown-1Kaya Kerstad-Carney, musician, teacher and all-round Threshold whirlwind, hails from Narvik in Norwegian’s Arctic Circle – where warming foods are often essential. Bit like Garston, really.

“There’s three types of lapskaus; Brun (brown), Lys (light) and Suppelapskaus (soup),” she told us.
“As Norway used to be a developing country until way after the war, Lapskaus and the likes were very important staple dishes (husmannskost) as they were cheap and hearty for the climate and wallets. Things have changed a bit in Norway, but lapskaus is still going strong.”

The theory is that the dish was brought over by sailors from that area, using up leftovers and cheaper cuts of meat as they visited the area.

“It’s mostly a brown one around these parts. It’s generally salt meat used in Norway, or whatever you had the day before. Often mixed with ham and other things,” she explained.
“We serve it with the pickled beetroot but also with lingonberry preserve.” Yum.

Les Dennis was recently seen on our screens as one of the finalists in Celebrity Masterchef, an achievement of which he is proud.

“It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done but absolutely worthwhile. I did actually think about making a scouse for the final.

“But it is something we all have in common; a dish we’ve shared throughout our history in this cosmopolitan melting pot of a city. When you meet a scouser anywhere in the world you may have different football teams, different religions even – but we can all break bread over a pan of scouse.”

narvikNorwegian Labskaus, according to Kaya

Use as much meat as you have and fill it out with potatoes and vegetables for as many people as you are cooking for, with a ratio of three parts veg to one part meat.

1-2 tbs butter

1-2 onions
1ts salt
1/2 ts pepper
3-4dl stock (or water)
bay leaf
8-10 whole black pepper corns
2tbs flour

1. Cut the meat into portion bites that fit nicely in your mouth
2. Brown on medium/high heat in a little butter, but don’t overfill the pan as that will stew the meat.
3. Pour out the fat if applicable in between batches
4. Peel the onion and chop
5. Put the onions and the meat in a large pan (can be the same as the one you fried your meat)
6. Add salt, pepper, the stock (or water) and finally the bay leaf and whole peppercorns
7. Chop your vegetables (traditionally carrots, leek, turnips, cabbage and swedes (not the Nationality ;)

8. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 1-2hrs
9. Mix your flour with some water and add at the end of cooking time (10-15min)
10. Season to taste and serve with pickled beetroot and lingonberry preserve 

Les Dennis’ top tip: ‘I don’t mind an oxo cube. If you don’t make your own stock it’s a great way of giving it extra body, and certainly that’s what it tasted like when I was a kid.’

  • Chris

    It has to be Lamb for me, I’m a Scouse purist, but only when it comes to the dish…Scouse culture is anything but pure, it’s a mish mash of so many great influences and cultures…which in turn influenced the dish itself. Oh crap, I’m going around in circles.

  • Tom Lox

    Hi, I know this has been up for a couple of months now but i’ve just noticed, it’s Herstad Carney not Kerstad Carney.