Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Curious Craze for Mince'n'Tatties

The oddest fledgling food trend to emerge from London's most fashionable dining rooms over the last few weeks is the Scottish staple 'mince'n'tatties' - basically mince and mash. St John seems to have started it though I suppose to a restaurant that offers tripe and chips and rolled pig's spleen and bacon it's pretty tame fare while the newly opened Soho hotspot Dean Street Townhouse refers to it as mince and boiled potatoes. Hardly a compelling description so what's it all about?

Nostalgia for retro food obviously plays a part. I remember my mum making it when I was a child, adding Bisto to thicken and flavour it and turn it a deep mahogany brown. It had an uncanny sheen as if it had been buffed up with furniture polish.

When I read that St John was serving theirs on dripping toast (now there's a dish worth reviving) I knew I just have to have a crack at it. I actually thought it was rather tasty though my husband, an ardent Francophile, wasn't over-impressed. I left the potatoes whole which I think works better than mash. You want to be able to squish them into the gravy which should ideally be made with gravy leftover from a beef roast. (I didn't have any but I did have beef dripping. You need one or the other - but not Bisto.

Some recipes also advocate adding toasted pinhead oatmeal which I can imagine would be good. I seem to remember my mum using Scott's porage oats which I wouldn't advocate though her recipe is nearer than mine to the one that won the 5th Annual Mince'n'Tattie competition in Tobermory last year. So what do I know? Here's my version anyway . . .

Serves 4

25g beef dripping or lard
500g good quality lean minced beef (rare-breed beef would be good)
1 medium to large onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped small
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp plain flour
250ml leftover gravy and 250ml beef, Bovril or Marmite stock (made with half a cube or 1 tsp of Bovril or Marmite ) or 500ml beef, Bovril or Marmite stock
Worcestershire sauce to taste
4 medium-sized waxy (e.g. Desirée) potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and white pepper
Chopped parsley (a bit radical for mince'n'tatties but makes it look more colourful)

Heat half the dripping in a frying pan and fry the mince until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Spoon off any excess fat but you don’t want to lose all the dripping. Add the remaining dripping and cook the chopped onions and carrots until beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, then the flour. Add the stock and gravy or just stock and bring to the boil. Season with salt and white pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil. Return the mince to the pan, cover and cook over a very low heat or transfer to a slow oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile par boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, drain and add to the mince for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time, spooning over the gravy and leaving the dish uncovered. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle over some parsley before serving. You might want some HP or other brown sauce on the side.

There was enough left over to top a couple of bits of sourdough toast slathered with dripping the next day (see pic above). Personally I like it just with spuds. It makes even good toast go a touch soggy.

Does mince'n'tatties appeal to you? If so do you have an ancient family recipe to share?



  1. After your tweets about this yesterday I did it for my tribe (9) today but all I had in was pork mince - still snowed in! I added a bottle of cider and serve it with braised red cabbage (in redwine vinegar and demerara sugar). Defo a "Central heating for kids" after playing in the snow today! Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. That sounds really delicious. One tends to forget how good mince is - there's a good book called Mince by Mitzie Wilson which has just been published by my publisher Absolute Press that might be worth your getting hold of

  3. Fiona, I have just dribbled on my laptop thanks to this post.
    It's not pretty for a woman of my age!

    Now I will have to make mince and tatties soon to avoid anymore "accidents".

    Thank you for posting it!


  4. Glad you enjoyed it Carla! It's just such old-fashioned comfort food. I was tempted to jazz it up a bit but was glad I didn't

  5. Right that's it, I'm making it this weekend. Having not grown up in the UK I feel like I've missed out on so many nostalgic dishes, like this!

  6. People are so sniffy about mince but Pete and I love it and eat it often whether it's ragu or keema or chilli or something else.

  7. Go for it Lizzie!

    And you're right Kavey. It's odd. People love lasagne, spag bol and shepherds pie but turn up their noses at mince. Doesn't make sense.

  8. Fascinating, I love the pared-back description of this dish. A real "salt of the earth" kind of winter warmer which sounds perfect for warming the cockles in the Big Freeze!

    I love mince, alternate between veal, pork, lamb, beef and venison and life will never be dull. Can't see why anyone would be sniffy about it...

  9. What a blast from the past! My mum used to make this too; it was lovely. I may have to make this now, thanks for the reminder!

  10. I've found this rather late in the day but never mind. I use a spoonful or so of pinhead oatmeal to thicken "the mince" as it was always called in my family. Add it to the meat and give it a good stir around before adding the liquid.
    Another excellent mince book if you can get hold of a copy via ebay or abebooks is Josceline Dimbleby's Marvellous Meals with Mince - it was a 99p Sainsburys book, first published in 1982.

  11. I've heard the oatmeal tip, local lass. I'm sure that would be a good addition. And yes, I know the Josceline Dimbleby book too - I've got it in my collection!

  12. got to be mash with it,otherwise its english!yuk!

  13. Having booked a table at St John recently and noticed the minced beef on dripping toast on the menu - my nostalgia gland has been tweaked and resulted in my finding this blog post - but this isn't the first time recently that my mince 'n' tatties gland has been yanked.

    This is pure speculation by the way - but sometime last year there was that docu series on ITV where celebrities went and stayed with families living on council estates. In one of those episode Keith Allen (aka Lily's Dad) cooked his adopted family mince and tatties.

    It was proper old school with thin beef oxo gravy with massive doorsteps of carrot floating in it like coastal forts and of course mash spuds. Maybe Fergus saw this and revived it for his menu?