Autumn is nearly upon us and the smell of dried leaves, bonfires, and the days grow colder as the nights grow longer. The harvest festivals of the past brings forth memories of feasts and eventually soups and stews that help keep the chill off of one’s bones.
Feasts of all kinds were found with the wealthy and peasant alike. Each feast was different from culture to station to family. Once the feasts were done, leftovers or remnants were often used for soups, stews, or other hearty dishes.
Throughout the British Isles, soups and stew became part of the culture. It was a time for families and communities to share and to help ward off the chill of the approaching winter. Scotch broth, a filing soup that originated in Scotland that utilized many of the common ingredients such as lamb and root vegetables, but also added cabbage or leeks and barley.
The proportions and ingredients vary according to the recipe or the availability of ingredients. In modern England, Scotland, and Wales, Scotch broth is often sold in cans. As with many slow-cooked dishes, Scotch broth tastes even better when re-heated.
The preparation methods varied based on the location. When there are limited resources, the recipe would require creative use of supplies while offering the best nutritional value.
Original recipes would use one pot to cook everything in it to conserve wood for cooking fires while providing enough for everyone to eat.
Later evolutions of this recipe, would call for a joint, mutton, or lamb covered with water in a pot and simmered until boiling. Barley would be added until done. Potatoes would be added with their skins on in a separate pot, so that the starch would not affect the taste. Root vegetables would be added near the end with shredded cabbage added on top prior to serving.
Families will often make small changes to the master recipe. Some would leave out the onions and replace them with two medium sized leeks, a vegetable that tastes like a very mild onion. I’ve seen celery replaced with parsnip, fennel, or even a turnip. If lamb is not available, use beef or a stewing chicken. If chicken is used, the dish is called ”Hen Broth.”
I invite to try the recipe on your own and once you have experienced it, make your own rendition of it for your family.
2 lbs. of stewing lamb with bones
6 cups of cold water
3 TB of barley, washed
2 onions, finely chopped
½ head of a small cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp of thyme
3 TB parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of sea salt
black pepper to taste
Place the lamb in a large casserole or a dutch oven. Cover with cold water. Cover pan with lid and simmer for one hour. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for one more hour. Discard bay leaf. Remove lamb. Separate mean from bones. Discard the bones and shred the meat into small pieces. Return meat to pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.