Scotch broth

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)
150ml vermouth
75g pearl barley
75g split red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled
2 carrots
1 leek
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.

Hearty Chinese meatball soup

This is one of those recipes which feels really, really good for you. A clear chicken stock, flavoured with ginger, rice wine, spring onions and garlic, forms the base for this lovely soup. Meatballs still crisp from frying float in it, deliciously light in texture with their little cubes of water chestnut. Fresh, barely cooked slivers of baby vegetables give the whole dish a lovely sweetness.

If you made the chicken rice on this site, you may have kept some of the leftover broth in the freezer. If your freezer is innocent of chicken broth, you can make some from scratch using:

3 pints water
1 lb chicken wings (usually very cheap from the butcher)
1 inch piece of ginger, whacked with the flat of a knife to squash it a bit
5 cloves of garlic, crushed slightly with the flat of a knife
5 spring onions, tied together in a knot
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 wine glass of Chinese rice wine
1 chicken stock cube

Just bring all the ingredients to the boil in a large pan, reduce to a simmer and cook, skimming any froth of the top occasionally, for 30 minutes. Strain the solid ingredients out and discard. The broth can now be used or frozen. (These amounts will make enough for you to use half now for this soup, and freeze half to use later.)

To make the meatballs and finish the soup you’ll need:

1 lb pork mince
1 egg
5 spring onions
5 cloves of garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 red chilli
Seasoned flour
1 small can water chestnuts
1 small handful each of baby carrots, mange tout peas and baby sweetcorn

Cut the spring onions, garlic, ginger, chilli and water chestnuts into small dice and combine with the pork, soya sauces, sesame oil and egg in a large bowl. Use your hands to form the mixture into meatballs about an inch across, and roll them in the seasoned flour.

Slice the vegetables into matchsticks. Saute the meatballs in a small amount of vegetable oil while you bring 1½ pints of the broth to a gentle simmer. When the meatballs are cooked and the broth is bubbling gently, drop the vegetables into the broth and immediately turn the heat off. Fill bowls with the vegetable-filled broth and place meatballs in each bowl. Garnish with sliced spring onion and eat immediately.

These meatballs are also fantastic just served with rice and a little soya sauce with raw chillies diced into it to dip.