Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lobscouse for Mary Wigham

Another thing you were keen for on your wish list was more insight into the girls' lives at Ackworth School. Apart from sleep and stitching, food had to figure - but not large, or at least never large enough for healthy young appetites. Talking to a Friend who was at Ackworth just after WWII when food was still on rationing, she described the thin stews that left the stomach growling. Hunger was a constant companion. Perhaps sampler-stitching took one's mind away from hunger - I have yet to try it. In 1790 food was not as short as it would get towards the end of the 18th century and into the beginning of the 19th with supplies being hindered by European blockades in the wars with France. But still the meals would have been frugal, and a meal with meat was a rare treat. One of the school meals mentioned in the Ackworth archive is Lobscouse, which sounds more like a nasty skin disease, than something with an appetising taste. However, that may be a personal prejudice, since my roots are in Yorkshire, and Scouse is from the other side of the Pennines - Lancashire. Scouser is the name given to people from Liverpool - the Beatles were Scousers - and their particular manner of speech is called Scouse. You may enjoy as a group or guild getting together for a Lobscouse day - with stitching, of course. So here is a recipe for Lobscouse that will feed 12 - the total cooking time is about 2.5 hours.
You will need 3 pounds of stewing beef - skirt or brisket is best, if not then just stewing steak or a mixture of all three will do. Don't cube it or chop it up small at this stage. To flavour the stew, you will need some aromatic vegetables - 2 large onions, a pound of carrots, a swede or turnip or 3 or 4 parsnips, a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper and - to fill the stomach - 3 pounds of large potatoes. In a large pan, cover the beef with water and add the bay leaves, then bring to the boil and set it to simmer for around 2 hours until the meat is tender. While the meat is simmering, chop up all the vegetables into thumbnail sized cubes - if you are using parsnips, cut those a little larger as they cook faster than the other vegetables. When the meat is tender, dice that also, skim off any fat and return the meat to the pan with the chopped vegetables. Simmer for another 20 minutes until the potatoes start to melt, then correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve your Lobscouse piping hot in bowls. In true Quaker fashion, spend a minute in silence together before tucking in.


  1. What does it say about me that I think that sounds delicious? Hahahaha


  2. Julie it is delicious (from a true scouser) but minus the bay leaf (too posh)