Who would’ve thought that Scotch Broth would be a dying dish, but the fact is this country has fallen out of love with mutton. While this rich, flavoursome meat is starting to make a comeback and may even be the next ‘trendy meat’, the truth is most butchers say they are never asked for it and are therefore aren’t stocking it. Is it just too fatty for some who don’t seem to understand without that fat the animal wouldn’t survive the harsh winters? Also so much lamb is now reared overseas with countless food miles behind it before it ever reaches your table that there is a real disconnect in the food chain, in the heritage seasonal dishes of yesteryear, meanwhile barley as a staple cereal is being overtaken by packs of generic broth mix.
The true Scotch Broth of neck end of mutton with barley and sometimes marrowfat peas along with turnip (swede), leek and carrot is vanishing from the repertoire of the nation. It is being modernised in the minds of the population, with lamb, boiling beef, split peas and lentils making an appearance. This is happening to the extent that cookbooks these days seem to have given up completely and replaced mutton with lamb, a sad acceptance that this wonderfully rich and flavoursome meat is no longer seen as valuable outside of South Asian or West Indian cooking in Britain. Will the fledgling mutton comeback be a flash in the pan or will we once again become truly acquainted with seasons, with provenance and with flavour?
I love to cook this recipe below as it brings back childhood memories of a big pot of broth, a warming meal in winter or served cooler when the days got warmer as snow gave way to spring. This to me is the smell of Christmas, as my Dad always made the soup for the family gathering and on Christmas morning I still love to make this broth and rekindle those precious days. Rather than neck I’ve used shanks from my friends at Lochbyre who farm Scottish heritage breeds as I think it gives a lovely rich stock when slow cooked for around three hours and also added a true Scottish heritage vegetable, kale, as it gives it a contrast and richness. Using pot barley rather than pearl is also better as it doesn’t become as stodgy, although that said there’s many a Scot who believes it’s only a broth if it’s thick enough ‘tae put oan a piece’.*
*ask me for the translation!
1 Mutton shank
2 Carrots – 1 chopped, 1 grated
1/3 Turnip – half chopped, half grated
1 Leek chopped
1 Potato diced
2 Handfuls kale
Teaspoon sea salt
1. In a large heavy based pan add the mutton, water and salt. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 3 hours. Remove the mutton and set aside.
2. Add the barley to the pan and boil in the stock for 15 minutes then add all the vegetables except the kale. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile strip the meat from the mutton shank.
3. Add the kale, strew in the shredded meat, stir and simmer for a further five minutes. Remove from the heat, check for seasoning and serve.