Scouse (food)

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Type Stew
Place of origin United Kingdom
Main ingredients lamb or beef
Cookbook: Scouse  Media: Scouse

Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew. The word comes from "Lobscouse",[1] a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, which became popular in seaports such as Liverpool.

Origin of the dish[edit]

The Oxford Companion to Food claims that lobscouse "almost certainly has its origins in the Baltic ports, especially those of Germany".[2] Similar dishes are traditional in countries around the North Sea, such as Norway (lapskaus), Sweden (lapskojs), Denmark (skipperlabskovs meaning "skipper's lobscouse) and northern Germany (Labskaus). Another theory posits a Low German origin from lappen (dewlap) and kaus (bowl).[3]

Origin of the word[edit]

The first known use of the term "lobscouse" is dated 1706, according to Webster's dictionary.[4] Smollet refers to "lob's course" in 1750.[5] The roots of the word are unknown,[4] but there are at least three competing theories[citation needed].

According to Oxford English Dictionary (OED) scouse is a shortende form of lobscouse[1] and it may also be written lopscourse, lobscourse, lobskous, lobscouce, lap's course and their oldest quote is from 1707 by the satirist Edward Ward: "He has sent the the Devil, that first invented Lobscouse.".[6] The OED states that the origin is unknown and goes on to compare the word to loblolly which means a "[t]hick gruel or spoon-meat, frequently referred to as a rustic or nautical dish or simple medicinal remedy; burgoo" and "perhaps [is] onomatopoeic: compare the dialectal lob ‘to bubble while in process of boiling, said esp. of porridge’, also ‘to eat or drink up noisily’".[7]

The similarities with labs kauss in Latvian and labas kaušas is called gobbledygook (Kauderwelsch) of the mind in Der Spiegel.[8] Labs kausis means a "good key" in Latvian and in Lithuanian they use labas káuszas for a "good key" (Schlüssel may mean a metal key like a door key or another kind of key[9])[8]

Recipe and variants[edit]

19th century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions and pepper, with ship's biscuit used to thicken the dish.[10] Modern English scouse resembles the Norwegian stew lapskaus, although it differs from the German labskaus which is similar to Hash. Scouse is a stew, similar to Lancashire hotpot, usually of mutton, lamb (often neck) or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots and onions. It is commonly served with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Scouse is strongly associated with Liverpool, where it remains popular and is a staple of local pub and café menus, although recipes vary greatly and often include ingredients which are inconsistent with the thrifty roots of the dish. "Scouse" has become part of a genre of slang terms which refer to people by stereotypes of their dietary habits, e.g. Limey, Rosbif (for the English), Frogs (for the French) and Kraut (for Germans).

In St. Helens, the dish is often called "lobbies" and uses corned beef as the meat. In Wigan "lobbies" is often made using tinned stewing steak as the meat. A further variety of the dish is "blind Scouse", made without meat, although it would likely have used cheap "soup bones" for flavouring the broth (prior to WW2, such meat bones could be sold to bone dealers after being used and for the same price as originally purchased from the butcher[citation needed]). The dish is also popular in Leigh with local residents sometimes being referred to as 'Lobbygobblers'.

A variant lobscaws or lobsgaws is a traditional dish in North Wales, normally made with braising or stewing steak, potatoes and any other vegetable available, or made with mutton it is known as cawl. The food was traditionally regarded as food for farmers and the working class people of North Wales, but is now popular as a dish throughout Wales. The recipe was brought by the canal barges[citation needed] to Stoke-on-Trent, where it is called "lobby", the shortened version of "lobscouse".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Scouse" at Oxford English Dictionary; retrieved 13 May 2017
  2. ^ Davidson, Alan and Tom Jaine (2014). "lobscouse". The Oxford Companion to Food (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191040726. 
  3. ^ Reich, Pagel (1988). Himmelsbesen über weißen Hunden. Verlag. p. 355. 
  4. ^ a b lobscouse at
  5. ^ Tobias Smollet (1750) The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle p59
  6. ^ "lobscouse, n". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 17 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "loblolly, n". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 17 May 2018. 
  8. ^ a b Petra Foede (27 August 2010). "Hamburger Labskaus. Heißer Brei mit Ei". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 17 May 2018. 
  9. ^ "Schlüssel, der". DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Retrieved 17 May 2018. 
  10. ^ Draper, Charla (2001). Cooking on Nineteenth Century Whaling Ships. Mankato Minnesota: Blue Earth Books. p. 15. 

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