Traditional Scottish Mince and Doughballs is one of those utterly comforting, totally satisfying meals that pushes all my culinary buttons. It is soothing, the fragrance is wonderful and the rich meaty gravy sits side by side with the springy absorbency of the doughballs as if they were made for each other. It’s textural nirvana!
In some circles, Mince and Doughballs is regarded as a peasant dish. All the more reason to celebrate it – it is deeply underrated. I can’t remember the last time I stumbled across it on a restaurant menu. Maybe I’m not hanging out at the right ones. Or maybe they are missing a trick.
In terms of the rules, we have family feuds about what the rights and wrongs are of including veggies in the mince. I am firmly in favour as I see it as an opportunity to keep my washing up to a minimum. My brother in law, who is a former chef and has strong opinions on all matters food-related, tells me this is sacrilege. Veggies belong on the side. You can march to the beat of your own drum on that one. I promise I won’t tell him if you don’t!
I love the way the doughballs rise and spread in the pan. There’s something so primal about it – almost like very quick, very small-scale bread making…
- 500g lean minced beef
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium carrots sliced
- 1 cup of frozen or fresh peas
- A teaspoon of mixed herbs
- 1 beef stock cube
- 100g self raising flour
- 50g suet
- Salt and pepper
- Brown the minced beef in a large pan. Add the chopped onion to soften at the same time. There should be enough fat in the meat - you won't need extra oil. Mix well to break up the mince.
- Add the stock cube and herbs and stir in. Make sure the mince is thoroughly browned. There should be no pink meat showing.
- Add boiling water sufficient to cover the mince and reduce the heat. Cover the pan and allow the mince to simmer for approximately an hour. Check occasionally to ensure the mince is not drying out. Add more boiling water as necessary.
- Add the carrots to the mince and allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the peas.
- Thicken the gravy with a little cornflour paste if desired. Don't over thicken as the doughballs will absorb moisture and the mince may burn. Season to taste.
- Check the instructions on the side of the suet packet. Usually 100g of self raising flour is mixed with 50g of suet. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with a few spoonsfuls of cold water until a fairly wet dough is formed.
- Using two desert spoons, form the dough into rough ball shapes and place the into the mince. Allow to simmer with the lid on the pan for 20 minutes.
- Serve in bowls or a dinner plate with a cupped edge.