Winter in Scotland. Long, dark, cold, wet, windy. Four season in one day, except the two best ones. Harsh.
Yet, there is something splendid that happens every winter that makes us, even at the height of summer, long for these days of wind stung faces, nippy ears and numb noses. Scotch broth. A big steaming bowl, so thick you could serve it in slices and stand your spoon upright.
It’s with a smirk on my face I announce that it is officially broth season.
Traditionalists would probably insist it is made with lamb or mutton. I love lamb, but for some reason I’m not a huge fan of it in a soup, so I prefer mine with chicken and all the lovely cold fighting goodness this brings with it.
The hero of the broth is a Scottish speciality, imaginatively named, Scotch Broth Mix….
You can buy this everywhere in Scotland. I’m not sure about how readily available it is elsewhere, but if struggling the magic ingredients are dried red lentils, pearl barley,yellow split peas, green split peas and marrowfat peas.
Now there are probably a thousand different recipes and the truth is that I have probably never made the same pot twice. But, that’s the beauty of it. Many winter veg lend themselves easily to this soup. Leek, turnip (swede to those outside Scotland), carrot, parsnip, kale. All would live very happily with their pulsey brothers in broth, so I use what I happen to have. Simples. My most recent batch also included butterbeans and extra marrowfat peas. I love these peas in a soup. These are the gems I dig for at the bottom of the bowl, like little tasty emeralds of joy.
So, there you the secret to surviving Scottish winter. Enjoy!
Scotch broth mix
dried marrowfat peas
salt and pepper
Soak a couple of handfuls of the broth mix with a handful of butter bean and a handful of marrowfat peas for 6-8 hours. Rinse then add to a large pot and just cover with chicken stock. I’m not precious. Use ‘real’ chicken stock if you have it because it’s awesome, but i won’t beat you for using stock cubes. Life is hectic- if you have time to make fresh chicken stock all the time, you need to get out more.
Simmer for 2o minutes. While this is bubbling away dice your onion, carrot and parsnip. Add this to the pan and top up with some water. Not too much- Remember, you want your spoon to stay almost upright in the soup once it’s ready. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes giving it a stir every now and again to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Towards the end check the butter beans and peas are cooked. I find the best method it to simply put some in your mouth and chew. Easy.
If you’re happy they are cooked through throw in some shredded chicken, ideally brown meat for the best flavour along with some chopped parsley. Stir and check the seasoning. If needed add a bit more salt and pepper or extra stock.
Now the hard part. Allow to cool and transfer to the fridge overnight in an appropriate fridgeable container. The second day soup rule is an essential part of amazing broth. It’s worth the wait.
Slice a wedge of soup from the container and heat making sure the butter beans and peas are toasty hot right through then transfer a mountainous lump to a bowl and eat with a big spoon and a bigger grin. This will make you wish winter could last forever.