THE “GET TO THE RECIPE” BIT:
It’s always a bit of a cop-out option to start any piece of writing by talking about the words you hate, but I’m going to do it here anyway, because I am feeble in the face of linguistic convenience. So, among ‘hearty,’ ‘yummy,’ ‘flavoursome’ (or its barfsome American cousin, ‘flavorful’) I cannot stand the word ‘nourish,’ unless it is being said by Greg Wallace in this exact video. In fact, Greg Wallace could say all of the above words and suddenly I’d enjoy hearing them, but until then, they shall remain in my shoebox of hate, alongside goat’s cheese, ukeleles, and trying to parallel park in anything bigger than a wheelie bin.
Anyway, the point of all that is I needed a word other than ‘nourishing’ to describe the soup recipe I’m just about to bestow upon you. Because admittedly, the below soup is nourishing in every sense: it touches all your inside bits with its bright playfulness while massaging your happy-glands with its well-balanced ratio of nose-running tang to comforting stodge. Some may even call it restorative, but that’s another word which I’m hesitant to deploy because, like ‘nourishing’, it strays over into the language of purity. They both connote cleansing, as if all nourishing, restorative foods are there to somehow fix all the the disgusting, dirty things you have previously eaten – you feral, fridge-raiding beast, you. But this is unhelpful in the context of thinking about diet, as the more I read, the more I’m inclined to believe that no food is morally good, and no food is morally bad. It’s all just food*. Or maybe I’m over-complicating words again, like I did just here. What really counts, though, is that this particular food – an enhanced version of a traditional Scottish soup – is delicious, so let me talk to you about it a little more.
*I must specify in this asterisked footnote there are things which are edible and designed for human consumption which I do not consider to be food, in a traditional sense. But that’s a whole other argument concerning ultra-processing, bliss points, nutrient density, and money-grabbing oligarchs in the food industry; accordingly such arguments are nuanced, and fraught with complexity. Far too much to try to include in an introduction for a Scotch Broth recipe. So I’ll just shut up and eat my Pringles.
The RECIPE BIT
I like Scotch broth very much. The dried mix you can buy in the supermarket is a blend of split yellow peas, marrowfat peas, barley and red lentils and costs well under £1 for 500g. To save on energy, it’s a good idea to make up the whole bag and freeze the resulting soup in batches – crucially, before adding any of the finishing aromatics. This is so that each time you come to defrost and eat it, you get to liven it up with new chilli and new lemon, and you wilt in fresh kale as avoid everything becoming a muted, sludge-like green. And even with the veg added in, plus the cost of boiling it on the stove, this is still by far and away one of the cheapest, yet well-balanced meals you can make, provided you have the time and energy to do so.
Although mutton or lamb stock is traditional, I’ve kept things vegan for the most part here with vegetable stock, and then thrown the entire flavour profile into a vat of sunshine, adding chillies, lemon zest, a splash of cider vinegar and a few handfuls of kale at the end. I also top this with parmesan because – well – cheese, but you don’t need to do this because if you’ve sweated (swat?) the onions enough before adding the broth mix, you’ll be getting lots of depth there already. There’s a splash of soy sauce for a touch of umami too, seeing as celiacs will be avoiding this anyway due to the presence of barley. The only downside I can see to this soup is that it doesn’t photograph well. Or maybe I just don’t photograph things well. Anyway, that was a suitably long and rambling introduction, so do have a recipe as your reward for getting here.
Scotch Broth with chilli, lemon and kale
Makes 8 lorge portions
- 500g of scotch broth mix
- 4 medium potatoes – each around the size of a fist
- 2 large carrots – each around the size of a large carrot
- 4 medium onions
- About 4-5 tablespoons of either olive or vegetable oil
- 2.5-3 litres of veg stock made with 3 veggie stock cubes
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of dried sage
- Salt, obvo
To serve: (double the below if you’re serving all eight portions at once; this quantity serves four; likewise, halve everything if you’re just serving two)
- The zest of a lemon
- One red chilli
- 100g of kale, washed, de-stemmed and massaged into Gweneth Paltrow’s armpits if possible. Spinach works if you don’t have/like kale.
- A couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan or other hard Italian cheese (optional)
Start by soaking your broth mix overnight in water. The next day, or, when you remember, tip out the water and refresh it, and then find a really big pot with a lid.
Chop your onions into 1cm dice – you obviously don’t have to be too precise here but I’m not asking you to finely chop things, and nor am I asking you to play fruit ninja with them. Somewhere in between is fine.
Heat the oil in the big pan on medium and begin to fry your onion gently with a pinch of salt and all your dried herbs plus the chilli flakes. Add the lid and sweat until completely soft – probably around 10-12 minutes, stirring every now and again. When cooked, remove the onions to a small bowl and set aside but don’t wash the pan out. Keeping the pan warm, make up your stock and then add that in, along with your soaked broth mix. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes, then turn down and simmer for around 40 mins, or until the marrowfat peas are starting to go soft. Add more water if you think it’s starting to look a bit dry. While that’s doing its business, chop your carrots into 1cm-ish chunks, then chop your potatoes into eighths; inch cubes if that’s easier. Some people are prone to hangovers if they mix their units but luckily I’m not one of them.
Throw your potatoes and carrots back into the broth mix, along with your cooked onions and let everything boil away for around 20 minutes, or until both the carrots and potatoes are cooked through. Taste here and add in the soy sauce, cider vinegar and any other seasoning that you so wish. It’s also here where you can decide whether you want this to be a soup, or have it impersonate a stew. Add more stock if you see fit; boil it for slightly longer if you want it thicker. When everything is very soft and tasting lovely, it’s time to liven things up.
At this point, you can decant half the mix into Tupperware (other brands of storage are available) and freeze it for another day. Keep the remaining soup on low, and finely chop your chilli and zest your lemon. Stir these delectable things into it, and taste – it could probably do with another hit of acid here so either squeeze in some of that lemon, or for a more concentrated hit, use another tablespoon of cider vinegar. Lastly, wilt your kale into the broth for around a minute before ladling into big soup-plate-bowl things and topping with grated parmesan and lashings of black pepper. Serve with the crustiest of crusty bread, and a whole heap of salted butter. Repeat these steps when you come to defrost the next batch of plain broth.