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What is Stovies?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 16, 2024
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Stovies is a traditional Scottish specialty dish, also known as stoved potatoes, which originated mainly as a way to use up leftovers. Many different recipes for stovies exist, depending on the region of Scotland, the available ingredients and family preferences. Potatoes are a major ingredient, along with leftover meat and vegetables. The dish is usually cooked in a big pot with all the ingredients together inside, and the resulting fare resembles an extremely thick, hearty stew. To round out the meal, oat cakes and a vegetable-based side dish such as "Rumbledethumps" can also be served.

One of the stories about the origin of stovies says the Scottish specialty arose from the practice of the wealthy households giving their unwanted leftovers from the Sunday meal to their servants. Once at home, the servants would use these morsels to create an appetizing, filling dish that would last a while. They did this by adding the leftover bits of meat, drippings, and other items to sliced potatoes and cooked everything together to create a complete dish.

In modern times in Scotland, stovies are still a common way to use up leftovers so that food doesn't go to waste. There are countless variations to the recipe, depending on the regional preferences, but the basic ingredients that remain constant are potatoes, often called "tatties" by the Scottish, and some form of meat. Some families even have their own secret recipes.

Some common items that often vary between recipes include the seasonings, vegetables such as carrots or turnips and the amount of moisture used. The type of meat used to make stovies also varies widely. It can be made using beef, lamb, or sausage. Chicken and fish are also used in addition to vegetarian substitutes.

Typically when preparing stovies, the meat that is used is whatever was roasted for one of the week's dinners cut into small chunks, along with the drippings from the pan. Stock or broth can also be used for moisture or even water if there is nothing more flavorful available. Some possible seasonings include salt and pepper, parsley, or nutmeg. The potatoes are sliced thinly, and a chopped onion is often included, along with chopped carrots or turnips if desired.

All of the ingredients in stovies are cooked together, in a pan or pot, and the dish can be cooked in the oven or on top of the stove. The result resembles a thick stew with the majority of the liquid absorbed by the other ingredients. Oatcakes, "Rumbledethumps," which is a cabbage and potato dish, beetroot, or "skirlie," which is a type of Scottish stuffing, are often used as accompaniments.

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