Scouse (food)

Scouse is a type of stew typically made from chunks of meat, usually beef or lamb, with potatoes, carrots and onion. It is particularly associated with the port of Liverpool, which is why the inhabitants of that city are often referred to as "scousers". The word comes from lobscouse, a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout northern Europe in the past, and surviving in different forms there today.[1]

Region or stateNorthern Europe
Main ingredientsBeef or lamb, root vegetables


Scouse is particularly associated with the port of Liverpool. The recipe for scouse is fairly broad, it was traditionally made from leftovers and whatever was in season at the time. Guardian food writer Felicity Cloake describes scouse as being similar to Irish stew, or Lancashire hotpot, though generally using beef rather than lamb as the meat.[2] While ingredients can vary, those essential are potatoes, carrots, onion and chunks of meat, with beef favoured over lamb. These are simmered together for several hours. The meat may be seared first, then reserved while some of the potatoes are boiled; as they break up, thickening the mix, the meat and the rest of the potatoes are added, and the stew finished off.[2][3]

A survey by The Liverpool Echo in 2018 confirmed that for the majority of cooks the basic ingredients are potatoes, carrots, onion and chunks of meat, though many advocated the addition of a stock cube, and a few also added other ingredients, such as peas, lentils or sweet potato, and herbs including rosemary, parsley and basil.[4] The choice of meat varied: some cooks did not stipulate a particular meat; among those who did, beef was chosen rather than lamb by a majority of nearly two to one.[4][n 1]

A dish of scouse, with beetroot and crusty bread.

While purists argue that anything other than beef, potatoes, carrots, onion is not scouse, others point out that, as a thrift dish, it will contain 'whatever veg you had... and...the cheapest cuts of meat'.[4] Some recipes suggest including marrowbones to thicken the stew.[5] Proportions vary from equal amounts of meat and vegetables[2] to a 1:5 proportion between meat and potato.[3] A meatless version, known as "blind scouse", is also recorded, for vegetarians, or when people were too poor to afford meat.[6][7] Scouse is generally served with pickled red cabbage or beetroot, and crusty bread.[3][7]


Scouse is strongly associated with the port of Liverpool and its hinterland, in the north-west of England. Other parts of the country were slower to begin growing potatoes, but they were cultivated in Lancashire from the late 17th century onwards. and by the late 18th century the potato-based lobscouse – by then also known simply as scouse – had become a traditional dish of the region.[8] A 1797 description records that potatoes were "peeled, or rather scraped, raw; chopped, and boiled together with a small quantity of meat cut into very small pieces. The whole of this mixture is then formed into a hash, with pepper, salt, onions, etc., and forms a cheap and nutritive dish".[9] However, an earlier reference from 1785 reads, "LOBS-COUSE, a dish much eaten at sea, composed of salt beef,[ship's] biscuit, and onions, well peppered and stewed together." [10] Liverpool being a seaport would explain how the dish, "much eaten at sea", became a favourite in that city.

In the poorest areas of Liverpool, when funds ran too low for the purchase of even the cheapest cuts of meat, "blind scouse" would be made, using only vegetables.[11]

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states that "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse"[1] a sailors dish from the 18th century. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, lobscouse "almost certainly has its origins in the Baltic ports, especially those of Germany",[12] although it offers no evidence to support this assertion. The claim is repeated in a number of sources, though again, no reason given for this belief. Contrariwise Crowley points out that lobscouse (as "lobs course") is mentioned by Smollett in 1750, while Kluge dates its first appearance in German in 1878, and concludes the usage spread from Britain to northern Europe rather than vice versa.[13]

Similar dishes are traditional in countries around the North Sea, such as Norway (lapskaus), Sweden (lapskojs), Finland (lapskoussi), Denmark, (skipperlabskovs), and northern Germany (Labskaus).[12] though these differ from the original lobscouse, and from each other. Swedish Lapskojs and Norwegian Lapskaus is a stew, like scouse, while German Labskaus is a form of hash. However, lobscouse is also different from scouse, being a type of gruel. Nineteenth-century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions, and pepper, with ship's biscuit used to thicken the dish.[14]

Origin of name

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse"[1] and has also been written as "lopscourse", "lobscourse", "lobskous", "lobscouce", and "lap's course". Its oldest quote is from 1707, by the satirist Edward Ward: "He has sent the Fellow ... to the Devil, that first invented Lobscouse."[15]

The first known use of the term "lobscouse" is dated 1706, according to Webster's Dictionary.[16] Tobias Smollett refers to "lob's course" in 1750.[17] The roots of the word are unknown.[16] The OED states that the origin is unknown, and goes on to compare the word to loblolly, which means a "thick 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'".[18]

Friedrich Kluge also states that the origin of lobscouse is unknown, and that it was loaned to German in the 19th century where it was called labskaus.[19] Hjalmar Falk and Alf Torp states that lobscous originally was lob's course from a lob (a lump) and course (a dish) and that the word has travelled to Norwegian as labskaus and Danish as lobskous.[20]

The similarities with labs kauss in Latvian and labas kaušas in Lithuanian is called gobbledygook (Kauderwelsch) of the mind in Der Spiegel by Petra Foede.[21] Foede translates Labs kausis to means a "good plate" in Latvian, and says that in Lithuanian they use labas káuszas for a "good plate".[n 2][21] According to Gerhard Bauer káuszas in Lithuanian means a wooden ladle or dipper or a wooden drinking bowl and is the same word as Lettish kauśis and this Baltic word has been adopted in German as Kausche or Kauszel which means wooden jug, pitcher or drinking bowl.[25]

Konrad Reich claims that Labskaus stems from a combination of Lappen, Lappenstücke or Bauchlappen from the pig and a Low German word Kaus which he explains as a plate or platter and concludes that Labskaus is a paraphrase for a plate of minced pork.[26]:355 Reich does not cite any sources to his claim.[26]

By the end of the 18th century the term "lobscouse" had been shortened to "scouse" in Liverpudlian usage. In his book The State of the Poor: or a History of the Labouring Classes in England (1797) Sir Frederick Eden cites a report from the early 1790s listing expenditure on food in the Liverpool poorhouse. It included: "Beef, 101 lbs. [46 kg] for scouse … 14 Measures potatoes for scouse [420 lb or 190 kg]; and Onions for ditto [28 lb or 13 kg]".[27]

Global Scouse Day

In 2008 the first "Global Scouse Day" was organised, and at 2020 continues, as an annual event every 28 February. Bars, cafes and restaurants in Liverpool and around the world put scouse on the menu for the day, raising funds for charities.[28][29]


Lobscouse is also remembered in other parts of the north-west. In the Potteries, a similar stew is known as "lobby",[30] and people from Leigh, Greater Manchester, are known as "lobby-gobblers".[31] In North Wales the full form is retained as "lobscaws" (Welsh: lapsgóws)[32][33]

A version of scouse has been known on the Atlantic coast of Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador, from at least 1792. It is described as a sea dish of minced and salted beef, crumbled sea biscuit, potatoes and onions.[34]

See also

Notes, references and sources


  1. A small minority used pork or tofu.[4]
  2. Schüssel is a "vertieftes, schalenförmiges Gefäß mit flachem Boden" according to DWDS[22] In LEO Schüssel is translated as bowl, dish, pan or charger.[23] In Schüssel is translated bowl, dish, pan, tureen, basin and platter.[24]


  1. Scouse. Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. Cloake, Felicity. "How to cook the perfect scouse – recipe" Archived 2020-05-02 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 30 October 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2020
  3. Paul O'Grady's Scouse at; retrieved 18 November 2020
  4. Davis, Laura. "Revealed: Liverpool's favourite Scouse ingredients" Archived 2019-12-18 at the Wayback Machine, Liverpool Echo, 27 February 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  5. Lobscouse casserole: The Hairy Bikers at BBC Food; retrieved 18 November 2020
  6. Blind scouse at; retrieved 18 November 2020
  7. Blind scouse at; retrieved 18 November 2020
  8. Wilson, p. 218
  9. Pike, p. 160
  10. Grose p.104
  11. Crowley (2017), p. 35
  12. Shipperbottom, p. 472
  13. Crowley p157-8
  14. Draper, p. 15
  15. "lobscouse, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  16. lobscouse. merriam-webster. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  17. Tobias Smollett (1750). The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. p. 59.
  18. "loblolly, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  19. Friedrich Kluge (1989). "Labskaus". Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (in German) (22 ed.). Berlin ; New York: de Gruyter. p. 423. doi:10.1515/9783110845037. ISBN 3-11-006800-1. S2CID 62272098. Labskaus n. (= Seemannsgericht), nordd. Im 19. Jh. entlehnt aus ne. lobscouse, dessen Herkunft unklar ist. [The first edition of the dictionary was published in 1883.]
  20. Falk, Hjalmar & Torp, Alf (1903). "Hug". Etymologisk Ordbog over det norske og det danske Sprog (in Norwegian). Kristiania: Aschehoug. p. 439.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. Petra Foede (27 August 2010). "Hamburger Labskaus. Heißer Brei mit Ei". Spiegel Online (in German). Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  22. "Schüssel, die". DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2018.)
  23. "Schüssel". LEO GmbH. Archived from the original on 7 September 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  24. "Deutsch-Englisch-Wörterbuch Deutsch-Englisch-Übersetzung für: Schüssel". Archived from the original on 31 October 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  25. Bauer, Gerhard (2005). "Baltismen im ostpreußischen Deutsch Hermann Frischbiers "Preussisches Wörterbuch" als volkskundliche Quelle" (PDF). Annaberger Annalen (in German). 13: 5–82. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2018. Lit. káuszas hölzerner Schöpflöffel, hölzerne Trinkschale, lett. kauśis, kausts, kausinsch Napf, Schale, Becher, estn. Kause Schale, Napf, Schüssel, sanskr. koshas Behältnis zum Auf- bewahren, Tresor. Nsslm. Th., 68. Hupel, 107. Sallmann, 19a. Grimm,Wb. V, 362. Im Brem. Kausse hölzerner Schöpflöffel, in Pommern Kowse Schale.
  26. Konrad Reich and Martin Pegel. "Labskaus". Himmelsbesen über weißen Hunden (in German). Berlin: transpress VEB Verlag für Verkehrswesen. pp. 352–355. Und so «erfand» ein ideenreicher und mitfühlender Koch dies pürierte Pökelfleisch. Lappen, Lappenstücke und Bauchlappen des Rindes wirden dazu verwendet. Die erste Silbe weist darauf hin: Das niederdeutsche ‹Kaus› ist eine Schüssel, eine Schale, so daß ‹Labskaus› eine Umschreibung fur «eine Schüssel Gehacktes» ist. {{cite book}}: Check |author1= value (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. Crowley (2012), p. 158
  28. "Global Scouse Day 2020: Everything you need to know" Archived 2020-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, The Guide, Liverpool. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  29. "Global Scouse Day" Archived 2020-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, Global Scouse Day. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  30. Staffordshire Lobby at; retrieved 19 November 2020
  31. From "Monkey-hangers" to "Spireites": Affectionate nicknames for Townspeople Fraser McAlpine at BBC America; retrieved 19 November 2020
  32. Lobscaws and Llymru: Welsh food and recipes 22 April 2020 The National Library of Wales; retrieved 19 November 2020
  33. lobscaws at An Internet dictionary of Welsh for speakers of English; retrieved 19 November 2020
  34. Sandra Clarke 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador English Edinburgh University Press ISBN 9780748626168 p.112


  • Clarke (2010). Newfoundland and Labrador English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-3141-4.
  • Crowley, Tony (2012). Scouse: A Social and Cultural History. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-1-84631-839-9.
  • Crowley, Tony (2017). The Liverpool English Dictionary: A Record of the Language of Liverpool 1850–2015. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-78694-061-2.
  • Don, Monty (2012). Gardening at Longmeadow. London: Random House. ISBN 978-1-4481-4050-3.
  • Draper, Charla (2001). Cooking on Nineteenth Century Whaling Ships. Mankato Minnesota: Blue Earth Books. ISBN 978-0-7368-0602-2.
  • Falk, Hjalmar; Alf Torp (1903). "Hug". Etymologisk Ordbog over det norske og det danske Sprog (in Norwegian). Kristiania: Aschehoug. OCLC 312783058.
  • Grose, Frances (1785). A Classical Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue. London: S. Hooper.
  • Kluge, Friedrich (1989). "Labskaus". Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (in German) (22 ed.). Berlin and New York: de Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110845037. ISBN 978-3-11-006800-9. S2CID 62272098.
  • Pike, Edgar Royston (2014). Human Documents of Adam Smith's Time. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-17509-2.
  • Reich, Conrad; Martin Pagel (1988). Himmelsbesen über weißen Hunden (in German). Rostock: Reich. ISBN 978-3-86167-030-8.
  • Shipperbottom, Roy (2014) [1999]. "lobscouse". In Davidson, Alan (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food (third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-104072-6.
  • Smollett, Tobias (1905) [1751]. The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. London: Hutchinson. OCLC 229425510.
  • Wilson, C. Anne (1991). Food & Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century. London: Constable. ISBN 978-0-09-470760-3.
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