Buck Rogers’ Saturday Night Mince & Tatties
Recipe from Craig Smith
Submitted by Pilrig Press
Lean steak mince (from your butcher preferably)
Onions (a couple, finely chopped)
Carrots (a few, diced)
Beef stock cube
Whisky (your call)
Salt, black pepper, butter
Heat a glug of oil in the bottom of a good heavy-based pan. Add the carrots and onions and fry in the oil for a couple of minutes to soften. Add the mince and cook until browned and sizzling. Add a good glug of Worcester sauce, a bit of whisky, salt and pepper, stir and cook for another few minutes. Crumble the beef stock cube into the mince. Add a bit of brown sauce and boiling water (your call, not too much or it’ll be the dreaded “granny mince”).
Simmer with lid on (leave partially off otherwise the mince will weld to the pan). Keep checking, adding more water, or whisky, if required. Taste after 30-40 minutes, probably best to add more whisky here.
Keep simmering – the longer you give it, the more tender the mince will be. Usually 45-50 minutes is enough.
Meanwhile peel, chop in half, and get the spuds on the boil (20 minutes should do it). Once the potatoes are boiled, drain, add butter, and mash to within an inch of their lives. Nobody likes lumpy tatties.
Check the mince, add more seasoning if required (no herbs though, it’s not an Italian you’re making).
Pile onto plates, side by side (kids may enjoy making a “Close encounters” style mountain of mash, topped with the mince).
The meal is traditionally ended with a slice of plain white bread, dropped onto the plate to mop up the remaining gravy and mince. This also makes “doing the dishes” easier (but don’t, as I once did, mop the plate, decide it’s spotless, and stick it back in the cupboard).
Somewhere in central Scotland, on a Saturday evening in the grey winter of 1980, a 12-year-old boy settles on the rug in front of the big wooden-cased TV for the next thrilling instalment of Buck Rogers in the 25th century. Two bars burning on the electric fire, he knows never to risk turning on the third. His father’s keen nose would smell the burning dust a mile away.
He gazes at the screen, enjoying the warmth from the fire (on his right-side at least), and sniffs the air like a Bisto kid. Tea would be ready soon, but hopefully not until he’d enjoyed his hour’s escape from the dreich reality of life in 80s Scotland. A Scotland that seemed to be crumbling around him thanks to the evil machinations of the real-world villain – the dreaded Iron Lady, wreaking havoc from her distant, dark planet, laying waste to everything he knew.
In contrast, Buck’s world seemed dazzling. The gleaming chrome and polished glass towers. The sleek spaceships, silver robots and shiny jumpsuits promised a future light-years away from the bleak industrial battleground of 20th century Scotland.
He sniffed the air again. His sensors detected that his mother’s work was nearly done, and Buck’s adventures were almost over for another week. The galaxy had been saved again.
The future looked fantastic, he thought, but in 25th century Scotland, he hoped they’d still be eating mince and tatties.
Mince and Tatties comes in many forms. Some are better than others. In fact – to be brutally honest – some are just rank. On occasion, while playing with a pal, we’d end up at his granny’s. As the day wore on, we’d usually be asked if we wanted our tea. ‘Aye, thanks!’ we’d cry. Then, remembering the last time – the plate of lumpy tatties and watery mince – think ‘shite, I hope it’s not mince and tatties.’
It was always mince and tatties.
This inconsistency is probably what makes Scotland’s 2nd national dish so typically Scottish – there’s no right or wrong way. There’s only your way. My way isn’t even my Mum’s way (yes, I was that 12-year-old boy). It divides opinion so much, that it’s only recently I’ve managed to get it back on the menu in my own home.
So, this is my way, don’t follow it, your way’s probably better!
Craig Smith is the author of The Mile. The Mile is an entertaining, alcohol-fuelled stagger down a street that has a lot more to it than tartan rugs and cashmere shops. Join three friends on the eve of the Scottish Referendum, their hangers-on, and their pursuers, as they take in 300 years of Scottish history. And a skinful of beer and whisky…
Craig Smith is published by Pilrig Press.