It’s been a very busy month or so, and those of you who follow me on Twitter will have noticed that I was in Scotland for most of last week. I had good fun chomping on tablet, drinking gin and jam (if you are in Edinburgh and fancy a really, really clever and delicious cocktail, head straight for Bramble Bar – I can’t recommend their various egg-based flips enough), eating black pudding (much saltier than the southern variant, largely because of the inclusion of bacon rinds), and failing to spot any of those square sausages or any Arbroath Smokies. Bother.
I didn’t manage to find any Scotch broth either, so the obvious remedy on getting home was to make a large saucepan of it. The ultimate deliciousness of your broth will depend on the stock you use, which should definitely be homemade – lamb or beef is traditional, but any good, rich stock will work here (I cheated and used some stock I found in the freezer that I’d made a few months ago from a pork hock and some bits of shoulder – chicken stock is also excellent here, but it needs to be rich and dense). This is one of those dishes that it’s worth making a stock for from scratch, so if you don’t have anything likely in your freezer, try poaching a lamb shank or a bit of beef shin for a few hours and use the stock from that. You can also shred the resulting cooked meat into the soup – if you’re making your stock from scratch, just fish the bone out when you add the barley and lentils, shred the meat and add it to the broth with the chopped vegetables. If you’re using freezer stock which is sufficiently rich, you can happily leave the meat out.
Pearl barley is what marks a Scotch broth out among other, lesser broths. I’ve also thrown in a large handful of red lentils, which are a wonderful thickening and enriching agent for this kind of lovely lumpy soup. As with many stewed and simmered dishes, you’ll find this tastes even better if you leave it in the fridge overnight once you’ve made it up, and reheat it to serve the next day. To serve four (with some left over) you’ll need:
2 litres stock of your choice (see above)
75g pearl barley
75g split red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
1 red pepper (totally inauthentic, but very tasty)
1 small turnip
1 heaped teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 lemon (again, not strictly authentic, but damn good)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the stock to a simmer with the vermouth and toss in the barley and lentils. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, skimming any scum from the top of the pan with a slotted spoon.
While the pulses are simmering, chop the vegetables into small, even dice. When the 30 minutes are up, add them to the pan with the herbes de Provence and simmer for another 20 minutes. Add any shredded meat you’ve reserved along with the vegetables, if you’ve boiled a bone especially for this recipe.
Taste for seasoning and add the juice of the lemon. (This lifts the flavour of this rich soup, which I rather like.) If the soup is thicker than you like, just dilute it down with some water or some more stock until it reaches the consistency you fancy. Stir well before serving with big wedges of bread.