Skip to content

My mother was the family cook when I was growing up, which was great for all of us as she is brilliant in the kitchen. I do remember the annual burnt toast Mother’s Day breakfast my Dad and I would prepare to bring to her on a tray in bed, and the weekend grilling. But he pretty much steered clear of the kitchen.

Until retirement. Once my Dad had some time on his hands he developed a small but reliable repertoire—BLTs (made with Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing instead of mayo), cheese quesadillas, milkshakes, and this Scottish mince. 

I adore it because he made it for us and because it’s delicious and so cozy—better in my opinion than Shepherd’s Pie but with that Anglo winter food vibe. And Scotland = sheep and knitting to me.

There are many versions of this classic family dish of the Highlands. Every version I’ve read contains a small amount of Scottish pinhead oatmeal—the magic ingredient that gives the finished dish a suave richness. There is no substitute, and it must be pinhead as stone ground oatmeal is too coarse. My Dad’s version also contains mushroom ketchup. It is worth seeking out, but beef bouillon will do well as a substitute.  

If Scottish food interests you, I highly recommend Broths To Bannocks by Catherine Brown. It is full of history and good recipes that work well. It would be a good primer to a trip to a wool festival in Scotland. I hear they have those there.


2 lbs ground beef, lamb or meat substitute such as Impossible Burger

¼ cup mushroom ketchup or 2 T beef bouillion such as Better Than Bouillion or 1 bouillion cube

2 celery ribs, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 medium onion, minced

¼ cup pinhead oatmeal

2 T vegetable oil


  • In a large skillet or sauté pan heat the oil over medium heat then add onion and saute until soft and lightly colored.
  • Add celery and carrots and sauté until soft, about 5 mins.
  • Add the meat, raise the heat and sauté until browned, stirring frequently.
  • Add the oatmeal and stir to mix evenly.
  • Add the mushroom ketchup (or bouillon) and water to just cover the meat.
  • Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed and reduced and all is harmonious.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and a side of something green. Serves 6–8

File it!

Save Sarah’s recipes in your MDK account with one click.

MDK receives a commission for purchases made using the links above. Thank you!

About The Author

For Sarah Ross, everyday cooking is about winging it—with a classic or an old favorite recipe given to her by a friend. These are the recipes that get stained with spills from being on repeat, the ones to share.


  • brings back memories of lunch at my grandmother’s .. she served hers with doughballs… a mix of flour, water and seasoning to a thick dough that she sat in dollops on top of her cooking mince .

    • My Mum’s mince and tatties was always our favourite meal as kids. I have never heard of mushroom ketchup but it sounds interesting . All Mum’s mince had in it was Scotch beef mince an onion, diced carrot and Bisto gravy mix. She always used her pressure cooker after browning the mince. When we were very little kids and didn’t want to eat our food my Dad would mash the mince and tatties together and sculpt boats out of it and get out the tomato ketchup to put on the peas arranged like the sea around the boat. Isn’t it funny how it is the simplest of meals that contain the most memories? It was always mashed potato with mince in our house…..dumplings were for stew. I grew up in Glasgow and mince is a generally Scottish dish you will still find everywhere across Scotland, along with porage. In Aberdeenshire where I live now mince is served with skirlie which is made of oatmeal and also as a delight called stovies, a mix up of mince, tatties and beetroot in a bowl with an oatcake stuck in the top like a wafer in ice-cream.
      Talking of comfort food in Scotland, I had the best toasted Sandwich of my life on a trip to Orkney recently. Helgi’s Bar in Kirkwall provided a Vegetarian Haggis and Orkney smoked cheese toastie with chips (fries in the US] and salad. Washed down with a pint of Swannay Dark beer it faired cheered up a miserable day! I must remember to pick up a veggie haggis today and try and repeat the experience at home…..of course I brought back a supply of Orkney smoked cheese…..yummy also Beremeal for making proper bere bannocks. look where this article has taken me, thank you Sarah Ross!

      • Alison thank you so much for this remembrance! Yes, amazing all the memories that flood back with just one bite of a special food, and often not a fancy dish at all but something of home. I hope to visit Scotland in the not too distant future so I will make a note of Helgi’s Bar. And skirlie and stovies and vegetarian haggis to try!

    • I will try that, Scottish dumplings!

    • Funny we’re not even remotely Scottish however we do somireally similar only insteayif pats we use some rice.

      • Spellcheck! Ugh.

  • With a father from Glasgow and a mother from the north of England, this was a frequent family meal of my childhood. It’s economical and could be stretched (“och, I’ll just put another potato in the pot and another handful of meal in the mince”). Now I make it for my Canadian husband who thinks it is exotic and foreign —and absolutely delicious!

    • My Glaswegian mother’s mince was my favorite childhood meal…great memories.

  • That sounds delicious.

    But where’s the link for the fancy oatmeal?! 😉

    • OMG- it’s right there! ‍♀️


  • Oh wow, mince – similar to this but no oats – was a family staple growing up in rural Australia! Usually at least 2 nights a week (Mum would much rather be in the garden than cook, lol!). I have never asked where she got the recipe, it was just a constant in our lives. She does have some Scottish ancestors so maybe it was this. I’ll ask!

    • I neglected to mention that my Scottish father grew up in Melbourne!

    • Mushroom ketchup on order! This Curious Cook wonders, How much water?

      • Just enough water to barely cover the meat. It will be absorbed by the oatmeal and reduce a bit as it thickens.

        • This was a delicious Sunday night dinner! My family asked for it to go into the regular rotation. Thank you!

        • Thanks!

  • Very strange that I did not receive this email today. It’s the first thing I look for when I wake up at 4:00am. I googled MDK and found this. I hope this was just a glitch. Thank you.

  • The link leads you to Amazon – of course!, if it doesn’t work, just go there from your browser search. Chloe

  • Can we put this on the Rhinebeck Saturday 2023 menu? It will keep our strength UP.

    • I mean, we really have to Kay.

  • Where can you buy mushroom catsup in the USA? Not on Amazon.

    • Another option is a British shop if you have one in your town.

    • Sharon, it is on Amazon. Look again.

  • We’re not at all Scottish but our fish is so very similar. We use rice instead of oatmeal.

  • I’m definitely going to try this recipe!! I think my husband will love it, as long as I don’t tell him there is oatmeal in it. He has a profound dislike for this food as his mother made him eat it as a child and he said it was “library paste”. I guess she didn’t use Steel Cut, or just cooked it too long.
    I found Pinhead Oatmeal and Mushroom Ketchup on Amazon.

    • He’ll never know!

  • This reminds me of the Sloppy Joes on hamburger buns that were one of my facourite comfort dishes ❤️❤️ Thank you for sharing !

    • Oh God, sloppy Joe’s, yum! My Mom sometimes made them for Sunday football games. One of the very rare times we were allowed to eat in front of the telly.

  • We had this frequently (minus the mushroom ketchup) when I was growing up in Toronto. My mom called it “mushie dushie”. My sisters and I loved it. I still make it – and I always add oatmeal to meatloaf instead of bread crumbs. It tastes better.

  • All these mince stories you share here are bringing tears to my eyes. As usual, food brings so much feeling to the table. Thank you.

  • Watkins! yes!

  • My English friend Jill just pointed me toward “Mushroom Ketchup” as well as “Anchovy Juice” which I have now ordered. Wow…synchronicity in the universe! Just a word of warning…for an American, ketchup sounds slow and thick. This is more like Worcestershire sauce…thin but very aromatic!

    And a funny story: my teenaged granddaughter, scarfing mouthfuls of “Gram’s wonderful Chex mix,”. Insisting that anchovies are disgusting….until I show her the bottle of Worcestershire sauce and make her read the ingredients. Pause, another handful of chex in hand, while she reconsiders….and opts for anchovies! Score for Gram!

    • Score for Gram and for sneaking anchovies in whenever possible.

  • Yes, we love this too. We lived in Edinburgh for three years while my husband worked on his PhD. I found a marvelous little Baxter’s Scottish Cookbook there which includes a similar recipe. Only, it recommends to always serve with “tatties and neeps” — mashed potatoes and mashed “turnip” — called rutabaga here in US. Just like as one would do with haggis.

  • Sounds delicious! Although Better Than Bullion has unnecessary sugar in it.

  • Like many others, mince was a staple in my childhood. No oatmeal or celery though — my English mother would only go so far to please my Scots father. We always had dumplings made with Atora suet, flour, water and a little salt as well as boiled potatoes. Leftover mince on sliced bread was the best!

  • Ohhh, it breaks my heart to see this recipe. My Scottish mother just passed away in September after declining all summer. She didn’t have much of an appetite but asked for mince. I never liked it growing up but tried my best to make it for her. Usually such a positive person, she must have been feeling pretty crummy as she let me know it wasn’t very good. If only I had your recipe sooner! Pinhead oatmeal (never heard of it) must be the secret ingredient I needed. I’ll have to make it now in her honor.

    • My condolences Georgia. Do try again in her honor.

  • Both mushroom catsup and pinhead oatmeal are available from Amazon. (Of course!)

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping