A Humble Food for Winter: Scotch Broth from Ladled

scotch broth

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 Ladledshe 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.

You can pick up a copy of Ladled  online (including through independent booksellers).

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.

pearled barley (1 of 1)

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.

Scotch Broth

Prep Time: 12 hours, 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 13 hours, 35 minutes

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Scotch Broth

This classic Scotch Broth, a satisfying and filling broth-based soup featuring kale, split peas, lamb and barley, comes from Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Occasions by Kimi Harris of the blog The Nourishing Gourmet.


  • 1 cup hulled barley
  • 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 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
  • 1 1/2 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot, and saute for 5 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent burning.
  4. 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 1 1/2 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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What people are saying

  1. Buffy says

    in the directions for this recipe, last sentence of bullet point #2 says “Room the lamb and set aside”…what does this mean exactly? is that like tenting your steak once pulled off the heat to let the ambient temps continue to cook it?

    • Leesie says

      Grassfed lamb tastes nothing like you would find in the supermarket, it is much milder tasting. This recipe sounds absolutely delicious and is also a good reminder to pick up a copy of Kimi’s book! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  2. says

    This looks wonderful. I’ll be making it as soon as I can get my hands on some decent lamb. The farmer that we get our pasture-raised meat from isn’t making another delivery until the end of March… and I don’t know if I can wait until then!

  3. says

    I’ve always been reluctant to buy lamb since I never knew what to even do with it. Considering the weather as of late (cold in Texas!) this is the perfect time to give lamb a shot. This looks really good.

  4. Liz Hartwell says

    I love this recipe! I have a gluten sensitivity which i am not very respectful of, and used barley the few times I have made this. The barley apparently is offensive to my GI system. So this time I am going to use farro perlato in place of the barley. Its not gluten free, but low in gluten and apparently better digested by folks who have gluten sensitivities. I will let you know how it turns out.

    Also, I added some extra butter and a little half and half at the end. You can also use cheese rinds in the simmering part to add some extra richness. One time I added some fancy mushrooms which made it very good too. The wonderful thing about this recipie is that you can modify it for your own needs and its awesome no matter what.
    Thank you for sharing this recipe, its one of the staples in my house!

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