Scotch Broth, a humble potage of lamb, split peas, barley and vegetables, fills my family’s bellies in winter time when the lingering cold and snow seem to draw out our strength and internal warmth. Scotch Broth has long been a favorite of mine – thick with split peas and barley, flecked with long-simmered bits of tender lamb meat and ladled into waiting bowls. I remember it fondly from childhood – Scotch Broth and Mulligatawny were my favorites, though when I was growing up they came from a red and white can.
It took me a while to find a recipe for Scotch Broth that was just right. Too often they were too thick, too thin or featured odd ingredients – incongruent with the dish’s history. I’ve been lucky – only recently having come across what has now become my favorite recipe for Scotch Broth in a cookbook about soups: Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Occasions by Kimi Harris of the blog The Nourishing Gourmet.
Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Occasions
Few people share my intense passion for broths, soups, stews and other long-simmered things. and Kimi is one of them, and in her book Ladled, she explores a wide variety of simple, nourishing broths, soups and stews. Ladled is a celebration of bones and broth, vegetables, good fats, good meat and simple, humble flavors.
There’s a distinctive grace and humbleness of the soup pot, and Kimi celebrates that grace and humble nature of homemade soups with a simple, step-by-step approach and recipes that range from traditional to inventive. While, in my kitchen, I tend to lean upon classic European flavor pairings; Kimi opens up a new world of flavors that not only include classics like this Scotch Broth or French Lentil and Vegetable Soup, she also includes Thai Congee, Miso Udon and Chicken Soup and a brilliant Korean Oxtail Soup. Further, Ladled includes refreshing dessert soups and chilled summer soups as well.
Soaking Lentils and Barley
The Scotch Broth in Ladled calls for soaking split peas and barley overnight. Soaking grains and pulses performs three functions: 1) it improves texture, 2) it reduces cook time, and 3) it improves the bioavailability of trace minerals by deactivating food phytate – a naturally occurring chemical found in grains and pulses that binds up minerals preventing their full absorption.
Why Use Grass-fed Lamb (and where to find it)
Scotch Broth, a pottage of split peas and barley, also features lamb. The recipe begins first by browning lamb shanks in hot fat, and then slowly simmering them in the water where they create their own broth. Before too long the meat softens to a beautiful tenderness and falls away easily from the bone.
Lamb is rich in zinc, a mineral that supports fertility and immune system health. Lamb is also rich in healthy fats and offers a favorable ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids.
We buy two whole lambs each year from local ranchers, and keep the meat, bone and offal tucked away neatly in our freezer. You can check your local farmers market or food cooperatives for local sources of grass-fed lamb, and you can also purchase it online here.
- 1 cup hulled barley
- 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup split peas
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large lamb shank (purchase grass-fed lamb here)
- 1 large yellow onions, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
- 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 cups water, plus more for soaking the peas and barley
- 1 bunch kale
- 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
- ground black pepper, as needed
- Place the barley in a small bowl with about 1 cup warm water. Stir in cider vinegar. In a separate bowl, pour the split peas into a bowl and cover with warm water. Leave both bowls in a warm room for 12 to 24 hours. After the time has passed, drain the barley and the split peas, and rinse them well.
- In a large pot, heat the butter over medium to medium-high heat. Add the lamb shanks to the pot and brown them on both sides, turning as needed. Room the lamb and set aside.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot, and saute for 5 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent burning.
- Return the lamb to the pot and add the thyme, bay, and 12 cups water. Pour in the soaked split peas and barley. Bring the soup to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours or until the lamb shanks are very tender and the meat is easy to pull off the bone. Remove the lamb shanks from the pot and let them cool.
- While the lamb cools, stem the kale and chop it into bite-sized pieces Add the kale to the pot and simmer for 7 minutes or until the kale is soft.
- Shred the lamb, and return it to the pot. Salt well, starting with 2 teaspoons, and add freshly ground pepper if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley, if you like, and serve.
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