Scottish Beef Stew


Nick Nairn says that Scottish beef is some of the best in the world: "Our hardy wee beasts spend most of their time outdoors feeding on grass, and have the minimum amount of human intervention in their rearing." He strongly advises seeking out well-marbled beef for the most tender and succulent stew. Naim serves the stew over Skirlie Potato Cakes, which are a twist on a classic Scottish dish similar to haggis.

Scottish Beef Stew
Photo: © John Kernick
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
4 hrs
4 servings



  • 2 tablespoons pure olive oil, divided

  • All-purpose flour, for dredging

  • 2 1/2 pounds well-marbled boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 4 ounces rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons red currant jelly

  • 2 cups dry red wine

  • 2 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth

  • 2 thyme sprigs

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Skirlie Potato Cakes, for serving

Skirlie Potato Cakes

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for oiling dish

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 2 ounces lean smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/3 cup)

  • 3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging


Make the Stew

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour; shake off any excess flour. Add half of the meat to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes longer. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and floured meat, browning the meat over moderate heat.

  2. Melt the butter in the casserole. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and rutabaga and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 7 minutes. Add the jelly and the wine and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the casserole. Add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Add the browned meat and any accumulated juices along with the thyme, garlic, and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make the Cakes

  1. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and boil over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. Oil an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the bacon and cook until most of the fat has been rendered, about 3 minutes. Add the oats and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and thyme.

  3. Drain the potatoes and peel them. Halve each potato crosswise. Working over a bowl, pass the hot potatoes through a ricer. Alternatively, mash the potatoes by hand until smooth. Stir in the oat mixture and season with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes in the prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

  4. Bring the potato mixture to room temperature. Cut into 4 squares, then cut each square in half again. Carefully lift the cakes out of the dish with an offset metal spatula. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil until shimmering. Spread the flour in a shallow bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Carefully dredge each potato cake in the flour; shake off any excess. Add the potato cakes to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the cakes and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Cook the cakes until richly browned and heated through, about 2 minutes longer.

Finish the Stew

  1. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl. Boil the sauce over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Serve the stew over the Skirlie Potato Cakes.

Make Ahead

The stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. The potato cakes can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Bring the potato cakes to room temperature before proceeding.

Suggested Pairing

This stew is so intensely flavorful, it deserves a rich and powerful red from Bordeaux to go along with it.

Related Articles