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Stories and Stovies
Casserole Meals

or, Tattie and Mince Suppers and Other Similar Repasts

Charlotte's Granny's Mince
This was a staple of growing up in Scotland.

Take some nice ground beef, sirloin is best because it's not so greasy, and brown it in its own juices or very little oil. Brown onions to taste, with salt and pepper. (But watch your salt because it's not good for your blood pressure).

You have to add Bisto. (This is a gravy flavoring that you can get in really good supermarkets or British import stores, it has the "Bisto Twins" on the box. - We used to talk about people being "Bisto Twins" in Scotland like Americans talk about "The Bobbsey Twins.") If you can't get Bisto a little Kitchen Bouquet will do. Then you add peas and carrots - drain if you use canned - and put in the oven or on top of the stove to simmer everything together, like a stew. My granny would add "doughboys" which were just flour dumplings, but they were so good. When I came to America and first had Chicken and Dumplings I was reminded of begging for more doughboys to be added to the mince.

Mince is really good finished off in a casserole with a puff paste topping - the rolled up Pepperidge Farm or Poppin' Fresh crescent rolls packaged breads work really well as substitutes for puff paste because they come out nice and soggy on the bottom if you put them on top of your casserole to bake instead of all genteel on a separate pan.

Of course, you have to serve this with a big pot of mashed potatoes and slices of bread and butter. If you're American I suppose you could also serve a green salad - but I never saw much salad when I was growing up in Scotland eating mince and, the day after, stovies.

Charlotte's Granny's Stovies

I just learned that the name "stovies" has two origins - one for the toffs (or posh people – "toffs" were the "toffee nosed" who stuck their noses up at everything) - and the other for ordinary people like you and me. First, for you toffs out there: Scotland has a long and glorious history as a friend of France. Our royal families married together (remember the highly successful Stewart line of kings and queens which "began wi' a lass and ended wi' a lass") and we enjoyed a common enemy in the English.

As a result, elegant French cooking became some of Scotland's staples, adapted to a colder and wetter climate. Stovies can be associated with the French cooking term "etouffier", pretty much meaning cooked using a stove.

Now, for the rest of us: read the part about Scotland and France and royalty I just educated the toffs about in the above paragraph to the point of my dig at the English. Now go on -- As a result the ordinary people who came over from France adapted their cooking to our colder and wetter climate. They found out that our hardy fare helped them last out the winters,especially stuff (maybe also from the French word "etouffier") with lots of insulation in it that kept them healthy and well. A stove cooked meal, like Stovies, is an example.

When I was a little girl, my Granny would take leftover mince and put it in a casserole.

She'd then take the leftover mashed potatoes and spread on top of the mince. ("Mince" has one of the many "n"'s I eliminated by mistake - re read this without the "n's" and imagine what no "n's" can do to a meal!)

Anyhow, my Granny would heat this in the oven at about 350 until very hot and then put under the broiler to brown the potatoes.

This was really good. I see something similar in recipe books and from other Scottish cooks called "Shepherd's Pie." But to us it was always "Stovies." This was as staple and favorite a meal to Scottish children as hamburgers and meat loaf are to Americans. We even had a little song, which I can't remember all the words to, much less write down the tune. I do remember the refrain, however, which was simply an homage to our favorite food: "Stovies. We love stovies. Just feed us stovies, stovies, stovies."

Here’s another "tattie" meal to feed a group of hungry people:

Charlotte's Church Supper Casserole

10 lbs of potatoes, eyes picked out, etc., washed, not peeled
Onions, peppers, mushrooms to taste
Sliced ham
Canned beans with jalapenos
French's Onion Topping
Grated Cheeses - mozarella and parmesan

Boil up the potatoes in cubes and drain and allow to cool. Brown the onions, peppers, mushrooms and other fillers you like in butter, then lightly grill the ham.

Layer the potatoes in a big casserole with the beans, ham, onion mixture and repeat layers but make sure you end up with potatoes on top. Garnish with the cheeses and the onion topping.

Bake in a hot oven (375-400) until nice and brown and very hot. Serve - and your friends at church will think you stood over the stove and fried all those potatoes instead of just boiling and layering.

This reminds me a little bit about growing up in Scotland - I always used to envy the bigger kids - now I know they were all between 14 and 16, but they seemed so adult then - because they got two weeks off school in winter and spring to go "tattie howking" and "to the berries."

Tattie howking ("howking" means "looking for") was time off for older children to work in the fields for the farmers. They got to make money by bending over behind the cart picking potatoes - and I thought they were so lucky.

The Berries was another time off to work bent over, but this time it was picking the fresh "rasps", (raspberries) grown in the Carse (means "valley") of Gowrie. With the tatties they were dirty, cold, wet because over there on Tayside it rains a lot, and in the muck; with the berries they were stretched out in those prickly bushes and still in muck!

The kids who got to go tattie howking and to the berries were all from the junior secondary schools - this meant they were targeted to leave school at 15 and go to work in factories, offices, or the trades. I passed mandatory exams (the "Qualies" or "Qualifying Exams") when we took them at 11 or 12 and was tracked in to the Harris Academy, which was a Senior Secondary. This meant I had the expectation of staying in school for a 12 year education, instead of 9 or 10, and having the chance to go on to University.

I never did get to go to "the tatties" or "the berries" (I'm not envious any more, about that, believe me!) or to University in Scotland. However, I did eventually get to Chico State University, but I had to wait for widowhood when John died when I was 30 for that.

 John and me
John and me enjoying a Church Supper, Ft Meade Serviceman’s Branch, Laurel, Maryland 1974

Macaroni Cheese Supreme from Culinary Arts

(This is the whole reason we treasure this particular recipe book!)

This is macaroni and cheese heaven, but of course I had to add to it - I like about 3 large onions in mine, and sometimes peppers and chopped ham. Culinary Arts only puts in the recipe a wimpy teaspoon of onions - and of course I double the recipe and we eat macaroni and cheese for a week!

(I also save some of the macaroni to make sweet macaroni, with milk and eggs and nutmeg that's over in the dessert section. I like that for breakfast).

By the way, this is pretty much the recipe book I learned to cook out of, and used to teach my family to cook. Now that it’s available as a reprint I’m so happy to see three of my daughters have bought their own copies.

8 oz package of macaroni of the shape of your choice, but I like elbow best.

1/4 cup butter

Onions and stuff I told you about

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

Now, sometimes I forget the following herbs but they are really good in it --

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, but I like cilentro

1 tablespoon dried sweet basil

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese

(I like mine really cheesy, so I'll add mozarrella, provolone, or Parmesan toppings - there's a grated garlic parmesan out now that's really tasty.)

Cook macaroni according to package.

Rinse with cold water and drain in cold water as you always should to rinse off the starch and stop the cooking process.

Melt butter in a deep skillet or saucepan. Saute onion and other stuff until it's the way you like it, then add flour - but I like cornstarch better because you only use half the amount and it doesn't lump so easily.

Add salt and pepper, and mix well.

Stir in the milk gradually so it doesn't lump up.

Cook, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth and thickened.

Add parsley, basil and the cheese.

Cook until the cheese melts.

Mix macaroni and cheese with the sauce then pour into a large casserole dish.

Garnish with your other cheeses then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Oh, this is so much better than packaged mixes!

Florence from KDHC's Quiche

I was really happy at KDHC in Phoenix working for the kidney doctors. Florence was one of the women who also worked there, and every year she has a crystal party and makes this just delicious quiche. I've never made it, but it's on the top of the to do list!

Whish (this is Florence's word, not mine) 4 eggs and 2 cups milk.

Add 3 cups grated cheese (Cheddar or Jack), 6 oz chopped ham, 2/3rd cup chopped onion (you can bet when I make it, there'll be more) and salt and pepper to taste.

Spray brownie pan or baking dish with cooking spray and pour ingredients in pan.

Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes.


Instead of ham, add small can chopped green chiles.

Instead of ham, add chopped vegetables such as frozen chopped broccoli or spinach (small pkg)

Instead of ham use chicken or bacon.

Now, it's confession time - and this is the reason you read the whole recipe before you do anything - I now realize that I have missed out about 2 cups of Bisquick that gets stirred in with the mix before pouring it into the casserole.

Make sure you don't forget it!

When I was a little boy

When I was a little boy
I lived by myself,
And all the bread and cheese I got
I laid upon a shelf;
The rats and the mice
They made such a strife,
I had to go to London-town
And buy me a wife.

The streets were so broad
And the lanes were so narrow,
I was forced to bring
My wife home in a wheelbarrow.
The wheelbarrow broke
And my wife had a fall.
Farewell wheelbarrow,
Little wife and all.

Charlotte's Stew

I've tried to approximate how my Granny made stew, and this comes out pretty close

Take at least a pound of nice sirloin stew meat, or steak chopped up. Coat the meat in cornstarch or flour to help create a thick sauce, and brown in a little oil in a large skillet. When it's brown, put it in a stew pot and add the good stuff you like - peeled, chopped potatoes; lots of onions; celery if you have to; mushrooms if the kids will let you; lots of nice carrots; peas, etc; a small can of tomato paste is something my Granny never added, but I like it because it adds color and flavor. Salt and pepper are good. Bisto is terrific for your sauce or gravy flavoring. Then just let it simmer covered in your pot about an hour or so until the meat is cooked through and your vegetables are done.

steak.jpg (30573 bytes)

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Fout and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing,
"Now wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the King?"

Charlotte's Steak Pie

(My Granny added kidneys)

Just take your stew mixture - and I make stew you eat with a fork, not a spoon - and put in a deep baking dish. Put a cover on the top - puff paste if you're ambitious, those rolled up biscuits in the dairy section -(Baking Powder Grands or Crescent Rolls are really good) - if you're not. Bake in the oven until your topping is done and your "pie" is hot.

This makes a great family sized pot pie on a cold winter night, which we don't seem to have too many of down here in Phoenix, AZ.

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