Much like other geographically proximal stews such as Irish Stew, Lancashire Hotpot, Lobby etc, the core ingredients were root vegetables, cheap cuts of red meat and side helpings of bread and beetroot or red cabbage. The make up is the same today, with some division of opinion in the city of Liverpool as to whether to use lamb or beef and whether the side dish should be red cabbage or beetroot.
Regardless of opinion, the cheaper cuts are much better in lending themselves to the slow cooking that Scouse requires, breaking down the harder fats and stray cartilage in the meat, with flavours infusing from the vegetables, completing a thickened stew full of comforting flavours.
Indeed, I had a few people over to my own Laboratory for some Scouse (including a pan of Blind Scouse – extra vegetables, no meat but with the addition of mixed beans in my own twist), local beers and a treat of a dessert in Wet Nelly.
What is Wet Nelly I hear many of you cry (not literally, my hearing isn’t that sharp)? It is a bread pudding dessert, allegedly commissioned by chefs in Liverpool for the arrival in port of Admiral Lord Nelson; hence how it got its nickname. Usually a sweet, short crust pie casing holds in a mix of dried fruit, cake sponge, bread, rum and syrup. In the version I served, I used the more delicate filo pastry to make individual portions, plus a little extra in the form of some all spice to add some depth to the flavour.
So anyway, how did I make my Scouse and Wet Nelly? Read on…
Scouse Recipe (Serves 8-9)
What you need:
650g of Mutton (Legs steaks, but preferably Scrag/Middle or Best end of Neck) or Lamb
1kg of King Edward Potatoes, cubed
2 Large white onions, finely diced
4 Large carrots, peeled and diced
4 Stems of Celery, diced
70g of red split lentils
1 litre of lamb (or beef/veg) stock – see step 2 for stock make up
2 tsp oil (vegetable or olive oil)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Red Cabbage Accompaniment ½ red cabbage
1 small glass (150ml) red wine
2 tblsp white sugar
1 tblsp white/red wine vinegar
What to do:
Preparation for red cabbage:
- Finely chop the red cabbage and place in a saucepan with the other ingredients and cook on a medium heat until all the liquor has evaporated and the cabbage has softened. Now cover the pan and leave for at least an hour before adding 50ml of water and steaming then reducing again prior to serving.
1. Fry the onions in the oil until golden brown, although if you want a deeper and richer flavour, cook for longer to crisp the onions to add a darker colour.
2. Remove the bones from the mutton and dice coarsely, seal this off in a heavy frying pan with the oil and onions. Put the bones to one side to make a stock from (add 1.2 L of water, pinch of salt, 3 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and any off-cuts from the carrots/celery/onions) by simmering for at least 45 minutes in a pan.
3. Add the carrots and celery to the pan and fry until soft and going translucent.
4. Transfer the meat, carrot, onions and celery to a slow cooker or large cooking pot. Add in the potatoes, lentils, seasoning, butter and stock and leave the slow cooker/crock pot on a low heat for at least 7 hours before serving. If you do not have a slow cooker, a large cooking pot on the hob simmer for 2 hours then leaving for 4-5 hours before returning to heat for at least another 3 hours allows time to break down the tougher meat. Ensure regular stirring to prevent ingredients sticking and burning in the pan.
5. Serve with wholemeal bread and cooked, soft red cabbage (or beetroot in some households).
Wet Nelly Parcels (makes 12-13)
What you need:
1 packet of Filo Pastry sheets (270g)
Butter to grease a muffin tray
200ml whole milk
50ml single cream
150g of crumbed sponge cake (no cake cream!)
25g breadcrumbs (wholemeal)
3 tblsp Golden Syrup
Grated rind of 1 small orange
Pinch of All Spice
105g of Golden Raisins (soaked in 150ml of dark rum for at least 1 week)
1 Egg, beaten, to glaze
Confectionery sugar to dust
What to do:
1. Combine the parcel filling ingredients to form a wet paste.
2. Dusting a work surface lightly with white flour, place down and cut the pastry sheets (2 sheet thickness) to approximately 6 inch length squares and using a pastry brush, coat the pastry with the beaten egg, this should allow for greater integrity when baking the parcels. Onto the egg washed pastry, spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mix then fold up and twist and pinch the pastry into a circular based parcel.
3. Brush the outside of the pastry with beaten egg and place in an individual muffin tray; which has been greased with butter.
4. Bake in an oven until the filo pastry is a golden brown colour at approximately 180 degrees Celsius or gas mark 4-5, it should take approximately 20-25mins dependent on the oven.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before dusting with confectionery sugar. Serve warm with freshly made custard and sit back and watch satisfaction unfold.
So there you have it…. Pretty simple dishes, comfort food at its best. Bless those Scandinavian sailors and inventive confectioners!
Until next time,
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