Regional Recipes: Scotch Broth

January 12, 2015

This weekend has been wild and windy, the wind blowing loudly round the house and rain lashing against the windows. The sort of wind that brings to mind the book the Secret Garden where Mary “lay and  hated the sound of the heavily beating rain, she hated the wind and its wuthering.” Listening to the wind swirling past you can understand what is meant by the word wuthering, the wind gusts and howls, almost alive, screeching it’s frenzy as it tries to blow away the house. Stepping outside is a battle with the door as you pull hard to close it and the wind rushes into the living room with a rush of glee. Even with layers of clothes the wind still finds the gaps, chilling you to the bone.

The wind also causes damage, in the night our fence blew down leaving a gaping gap into the next door garden. The dog approached warily, barking at the fence, as if it had moved to spite him. At first he was scared to approach, wondering what magical force had moved the fence. When it was dark he discovered that he had access to the neighbours garden and set off on a joyous venture into the unknown. I was worried, I wasn’t sure if the side of the neighbours house had access to the road and had visions of him getting run over. I gave chase, barefooted, wearing my dressing gown and pyjamas. I stepped into the neighbours garden and ended up ankle deep in a pond. I did manage to capture the dog, who thought it was a new game. Not one I intend playing again soon.

Weather like this calls for soul warming food. Food that is slowly cooked releasing a glorious smell into the kitchen, making a promise of what is to come. A Scotch Broth fitting the weather perfectly, a lamb joint simmering in a pot with vegetables and pearl barley being added slowly. Gradually simmering down to make a warming and comforting meal enjoyed with home cooked bread.

Scotch broth

A dull looking bowlful, the pleasure comes in eating it. A mouthful warms you up from the inside and it is incredibly filling, a meal in itself. You can’t hurry a scotch broth, it needs to be cooked slowly and simmered until the meat is falling off the bone and the liquid has thickened. You can imagine this being cooked on huge pots over an open fire, with whatever meat and vegetables were handy being thrown in.

Scotch Broth

A view of a loch in the foreground would be obligatory and rolling heather filled hills disappearing into the background behind a village of crofters huts. When the soup is ready the lamb is shredded from the bone and added the the bowls, the broth being poured around it. Silence would fall as the meal was enjoyed.

Scotch Broth

My family enjoyed eating the Scotch Broth as well, warming and filling it was the perfect meal for the cold weather. It is surprisingly filling, one bowl was sufficient and I did not feel like eating again for some time after. It was worth the wait and the anticipation as the smell drifted though the kitchen.

Read more: Traditional recipes from North East England

Scotch Broth Recipe

Scotch Broth


  • 75 g 3oz pearl barley
  • 1.15 kg/2½lb lamb joint
  • 2 litres/3½ pints cold water
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 potatoes
  • ½ savoy cabbage
  • salt and black pepper to season
  • handful fresh parsley roughly chopped


  • Place the lamb joint, whole into a large saucepan and cover with the cold water. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Remove any scum that forms.
  • Place the pearl barley into a bowl of cold water and leave to soak.
  • Chop the onion and add to the pan with the rosemary and thyme.
  • Leave to simmer for an hour, occasionally skimming off the scum.
  • Peel the turnips and carrots.
  • Chop the turnips, celery and carrots into small pieces and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for half an hour.
  • Drain and rinse the barley and add to the pan.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes, add to the broth and simmer uncovered for another half an hour.
  • Chop the cabbage into pieces and add to the pan. Continue to cook until the lamb is falling off the bone and the liquid has a broth like consistency.
  • Lift the lamb out of the pot carefully. Shred the lamb from the bone and place some pieces of lamb into each bowl.
  • Surround the lamb with the broth.
  • Season with parsley, if desired.

Read more: Panaculty

12 responses to “Regional Recipes: Scotch Broth”

  1. Galina V says:

    A very tasty recipe! I haven’t cooked with barley for ages. When you mentioned broth, I envisaged a transparent kind of broth you drink from a mug, not this chunky feast.
    I laughed at Eddie eager to explore the neighbours’ garden, and you running after him in PJs. 🙂

  2. Jenny Paulin says:

    ooooh this would warm me upo on a dreary day like today! proper comfort food thats really hearty and wholesome.
    i hope the wind dies down for you x

  3. Mmmmm, looks lovely. My type of food. 🙂

  4. I love hearty soups. This sounds really good

  5. That looks fantastic, just like my mum always makes it! I think Scotch broth may need to appear on my meal plan in the next few weeks!

  6. lisa prince says:

    I love brith i make it loads for our family as its a favourite of ours, will definitly be trying this recipe next thankyou

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