Shetland saucermeat arose out of necessity. A lavish does of dry spice and salt helped preserve minced, or ground, meat, usually beef but sometimes lamb, during the cold winter months before the era of refrigeration. As with many other preserved foods, adherents developed a taste for saucermeat that has outlived its original purpose, and the spiced meat remains the most iconic of Shetland dishes. Because of its pungency, saucermeat traditionally has been cut with fresh meat or combined with breadcrumb or other adjuncts to make dishes like bronies, clatch or meatloaf as well as eaten on its own. Most definitely worth a try.
- 2 lb ground beef or lamb with a good fat content
- ½ teaspoon each of allspice, cove, ginger, white and black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and mace
- 1 Tablespoon salt
Mix all the ingredients.
-The proportion of spice is by no means rigid. Butchers, chefs and cooks throughout Shetland have their own beloved blends, many kept a jealous secret.
-This blend is based on the one from the 1925 publication Cookery For Northern Wives by Margaret Stout.
-The few authors to address saucermeat usually include a warning with their discussion, a disclaimer admitting that the dish may be weird. In the British Table , Colman Andrews for one calls it “peculiar, but not bad at all” in its “overload of aromatic sausage-y spices,” which is ironic given the widespread misperception, and criticism, of British food as bland.
-The warnings more generally reflect the persistence of insistence that traditional British must be not only bland but bad as well. The lavish spicing of saucermeat, however, is by no means atypical of the British tradition. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries British cooks spiced their foods sharply, and it is no wonder that the first English visitors to the Moghul court in India during the seventeenth century liked the highly seasoned food their hosts served them. Saucermeat is one of many heirs to the British tradition of highly flavored foods.