As I wrote last week, many Italians seem to think of Scotland as a sort of modern, EU prison camp. Regarding Scotland, there’s one topic, apart from the weather, they seem particularly fond of: food. Whenever I’m in Italy, or even just with Italians, I will sooner or later get attacked on Scottish cuisine.
Attacked, I say?
Yes, attacked, because questions regarding Scottish food are generally directed at me with the expectant faces of people who know they are superior in a certain respect, and who suspect that I will reveal exactly how superior. And just like decent people enjoy hearing stories about brutal murders, or terrible accidents, or the latest scandal the prime minister has gotten himself into, Italians seem fond of hearing all about the horrors of Scottish cuisine.
And I used to go along with this, too, because after you’ve been served top-notch risotto, fine cheeses and meticulously marinated slices of roast veg, you tend to feel reluctant to talk about profanities like mashed potatoes and stewed mutton. Cullen skink doesn’t sound quite so classy then. So I always tried to sound a bit guilty whilst explaining what typical Scotch dishes tend to be like.
But actually, I’m radically changing my whole attitude, as of right now.
Now, you’ll never hear me slag off Italian food, because I love it. It’s delicious. But I’d just like to defend the Scottish kitchen, if such a thing exists. Because what if Scottish food is actually the best kind of food to eat where we stay? Fine, we don’t have sun-blushed, juicy tomatoes. We have no amazing, high quality pasta. We have none of those things that Italy is so rich in and (justly!) proud of. But our needs are different. We’ve got stuff to keep us going, and to keep us warm. When it’s raining outside, and the temperatures drop below 10°C, and there’s no hope of anything better for the next 5 months, you don’t want to eat mozzarella. You want to eat cock-a-leekie. You want to eat haggis. You want to eat mince and tatties.
And most of all, you want to eat stew. Lots and lots of tasty stew, with heavily salted mash. And no, this isn’t very refined. And no, I wouldn’t eat it in Italy, where the climate’s mild and the temperatures clement. But I sure as fuck eat it here, because it serves a purpose. And because it’s fucking delicious.
For 2 people and maybe a little leftover for the next day:
- about 400 gr of stewing steak
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 5 oxo beef stock cubes
- about 250 ml of water
- whatever you always use to make mashed potatoes.
*Disclaimer* All credits for this recipe go to C, my previously mentioned friend C‘s mum. She makes me this almost every time I go to theirs for dinner because she knows it’s my favourite. It’s the best stew I’ve ever had, so thanks for letting me use the recipe.
Cut the meat in chunks and stick them in a saucepan. Hold the pan under the cold tap until all the meat is just about covered (which, in my case, was about 250 ml). Stick it on high heat until the water boils, then turn the heat down a bit and leave for a few minutes, until the meat is brown.
Meanwhile, chop up the carrots and the onion. Once the meat is brown, add the carrots and onions, and 5 crumbled oxo cubes. Now turn the heat to the lowest setting and leave the stew to simmer for 2,5 hours. You might want to stir it occasionally to make sure the oxo dissolves properly, but leave it alone as much as possible, it’ll cook itself.
Towards the end the gravy should have thickened. If not, you can always dilute a bit of cornstarch in some hot water and add this to the stew, to thicken it up a bit more. But there’s probably no real need.
Serve with mashed potato and if you really insist, some vegetables such as cabbage or peas.