How to Make Scouse, the Traditional Liverpool Stew
Scouse is a beef or lamb stew traditionally associated with the people of Liverpool, who have come to be known as "Scousers" over the years.
The recipe for Scouse is pretty broad. In other words, there is no definitive recipe because it was made up from leftovers and whatever was in season at the time.
Warm and filling, Scouse was originally brought to Liverpool by Northern European sailors. The original name of what was once a lamb stew was "lobskause" or "labskause," which over the years has been shortened and Anglicised to just "Scouse."
The city of Liverpool is situated at the mouth of the River Mersey as it meets the Irish sea in North West England. It was a small fishing port up until the late 17th century when it experienced rapid growth thanks to the expansion of the British empire into the trade colonies of North America and the West Indies.
By the 18th century, Liverpool traded goods via the docks with the whole world, and became a popular stopping port for sailors from Norway, Germany, Holland and Belgium. It was probably those sailors who brought Lobskause to the city.
Lamb in olden times was a much cheaper alternative to beef, so Scouse stew was originally made from lamb with beef becoming a later addition.
Ingredients for Scouse
- Stewing beef (any cut)
- Lamb – lamb breast if possible but chops can be used too - remove the bones once it is cooked.
- Onions, chopped
- Carrot, chopped, diced or sliced
- Potatoes – quartered
- Cabbage – diced, maybe a quarter cabbage, not too much.
- Water or stock
- Worcester sauce - optional
- Any other seasonal root veg you have in and want to use up – turnip, swede etc
Notice I haven’t put amounts in? That is because it all depends on what you have. Use 3lbs of vegetables to every 1lb of meat, roughly. Mix and match because you are supposed to be using up leftovers from the traditional Sunday roast, plus seasonal vegetables.
Scouse could feed the poor, and feed them well, especially in the cold winter months.
Nowadays lamb is so expensive it is outside of many of our budgets and so may be omitted.
Cooking method for Scouse
- Put a little vegetable oil in the base of a large saucepan, and place on low heat.
- Add the onions, and gently fry until clear.
- Then add the cubed meat, and brown all over.
- Add the rest of the vegetables, and stir till they are braised.
- Add cold water to cover meat, bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer with lid on for about 2 hours.
- Season to taste if plain water is used. Stock already has seasoning but taste as you go along and add as necessary.
- After two hours, add the potatoes, bring back to boil, reduce heat and simmer for a further 2 hours. As the potato cooks some will break up and naturally thicken the dish.
At the end of cooking time you should have a potful of something that looks like the photo above (especially cooked for me by my Scouser friend). It tastes divine!
Scouse can be refrigerated for two or three days and can feed a cast of thousands cheaply. It can also be frozen, although the texture will change as potatoes don’t take to freezing too well.
It is best served with pickled cabbage and crusty bread and butter.