This may not be quintessentially Christmas fare but it is definitely a fantastic winter warmer for any time over the winter months and one I make when the family come home for Christmas as they love it.
The secret of perfect Scotch broth is to take your time making it. This soup really needs to be made a day in advance so that the fat can solidify overnight in the fridge and be lifted off the surface easily the following day and also so the barley, lamb and leeks have time to meld together. Really not unlike any other soup or casserole which improves when left to “mature”.
I have tried many recipes over the years, including my granny’s but my favourite really is Simon Hopkinson’s. He says “A good Scotch broth should, once thoroughly cooked, have a look about it that says, ‘Hmmm … yes, a dull bowlful if ever I saw one.’ Any Scotch broth that looks too colourful [save for plenty of chopped parsley added at the end], too neatly and finely diced – or, heaven forbid, too thin – should be looked upon as an interloper.
When a soup – almost a stew, in fact, in this case – is cooking, every single ingredient becomes acquainted with all the others at not much more than a snail’s pace. I often prefer to use a quiet oven heat for the majority of the cooking time.”
I made my Scotch Broth with leg of lamb only because I got it for half-price at Tesco! You can use neck of lamb or breast but with breast there will be a lot of fat
1kg breast of lamb, or neck or leg chopped into 4 pieces
2½ litres water
275g carrots, peeled and chopped small
275g swede, peeled and chopped small
350g leeks, trimmed, sliced and washed
250g firm cabbage, chopped
250g potatoes, peeled and chopped small
2 bay leaves
1½ dessert spoon Maldon salt
plenty of freshly ground white pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with
50g pearl barley
1 small bunch curly parsley, stalks removed and the leaves finely chopped
Put the lamb in a large pot and cover with the water. Bring up to a gentle simmer and then remove the copious scum that forms, using a large spoon. Simmer the lamb for 30 minutes, continuing to remove any further scum which appears, before adding all the other ingredients except the barley and parsley. Bring back to a simmer, again removing any more scum from the vegetables, and allow to cook over the merest thread of heat [or in a low oven], covered, for about 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender.
Using tongs, carefully lift out the pieces of lamb and put on to a plate to cool. Add the barley, stir in, and then pop the broth back on to continue simmering. Once the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones using your hands – a particularly satisfying, messy job – and then roughly chop it, having discarded the bones. Add the meat back to the pot, stir in well and continue to cook until the barley is tender. Once the soup is good and thick, stir in the parsley. Serve, naturally, piping hot.
This recipe would serve 6 as a generous main meal with crusty bread or 12 if only using it as a starter soup.