It’s fair to say that the Scots don’t celebrate the feast day of their patron saint with the same gusto as the Irish do Saint Patrick. In fact as national days go, in Scotland Burns Night with its whisky, address to the haggis and tales of the immortal memory of the great bard sees far more gatherings of friends and family than that of the man whose saltire stands as our flag.
However,Scotland is growing into its own consciousness and her produce begins to reach a new level of understanding within her own borders. And St. Andrew’s Night on the cusp of autumn nights becoming winter is an ideal time to embrace what is possibly the finest season in the Scots food calendar.
The game season has delivered its bounty, the first frosts have added flavour to roots and the last of the seasons lamb and mutton are still available and full of flavour. Famous as Scotland is for haggis, that dish will always be synonymous with January 25th, so for November 30th I will be embracing another hearty warming Scottish classic, made with cheap cuts from the hardy sheep alongside barley and vegetables. Scotch Broth.
However, in this instance I have created a stewed dish with a meat that I love, hogget, which is a 1-2 year old lamb, cooked in the vegetables and heather ale, served with a barley risotto. A real mix of seasonal Scottish heritage flavours. Perfect on a cold night served with whisky, a rich ale or even a warming glass of Malbec or Rioja. For a full Scottish feast you could start with Cullen Skink, a smoked haddock based soup and finish with cranachan, the wonderful combination of raspberries, oatmeal and heather honey with cream and whisky.
Scotch broth stew with barley risotto (serves 4)
For the stew
4 shanks of lamb, hogget or mutton
2 bottles Fraoch heather ale
1 good bunch curly kale roughly chopped
1 large turnip in 1 inch chunks
1 onion roughly chopped
2 large carrots sliced
Bouquet garni of 3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary and about 10 black peppercorns
Oil for browning
For the barley risotto
250g pearl barley
Glass red wine
1 litre stock (mushroom or beef)
Heat the oven to 140C. In a large casserole dish over a good heat brown the shanks all over in the oil. Surround with the vegetables and bouquet garni and add a teaspoon of salt. Pour over the ale, making sure that all the vegetables and the bouquet garni are covered to prevent them burning. Cover and warm the ale through to approaching boiling and then transfer to the oven. Slowly cook for three hours, keeping an eye from about 2 hours onwards to make sure the dish is not drying out.
When the shanks are nearly done heat a small glug of oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Rinse the barley in cold water and add to the pan. Stir for 2-3 minutes and then add the wine. Stir well until it has evaporated and add a ladle of the stock. Again stir until evaporated then add another couple. You don’t need to give barley risotto the same love as a standard risotto as it won’t yield the same creamy texture anyway. However stir regularly and add the stock regularly until the barley is cooked to your liking. I like firm to the bite with a little give.
Serve the meat and vegetables alongside the risotto with the rich liquor from the casserole poured over.
Thank you to Sumayya Usmani for all the photos