Rich, flavourful and filling, Scotch broth is as synonimous with Scotland as mountains, lochs and the proverbial haggis. Traditionally made with mutton this is instead a vegetarian Scotch broth that boasts an amazing Kale pistou for an extra kick of flavour and a touch of French chic.
Soup in Scotland
We live in a cold country and soup is comfort food. Like most Scottish households my Mum made soup every week. With a huge pan being topped up with water and stock and lasting for days.
Whether it was Scotch Broth, lentil soup or traditional Cock-a-leekie soup, there was always something simmering in that soup pot to fill hungry tummies.
Broth is something of a misnomer here as one thinks of a broth as a clear flavourful soup and not this barley, veg and grain packed soup that you can very often stand your spoon up in.
Scotch broth fills you up and ‘sticks to your ribs’ as my Grandma used to say.
Traditional Scotch Broth
Traditionally Scotch broth is made with mutton. The neck of the sheep. Cheap cuts that boast a lot of flavour from slow cooking.
The traditional way to eat Scotch broth is how my Mum would serve it. She’d make her soup in the normal way then take the mutton out and serve the Scotch broth just as a soup – no meat in the bowl.
Then for the main course you would get the mutton from the soup served alongside boiled potatoes. That’s the old fashioned Scottish way of serving Scotch broth.
Vegetarian Scotch Broth
I’ve taken the mutton out completely and used vegetable stock instead. You can either make your own or use stock pots or cubes.
I’ve made my version of Scotch broth vegetarian (actually vegan) as I like to cut out meat now and then. And since this is Veganuary and we are all looking towards healthier options it seemed like a good time to share this super tasty soup recipe with you.
Not only is this soup light on the meat front it is lighter on your pocket too, and let’s face it a lot of us could do with saving a few pennies after Christmas.
Scotch Broth Mix
The backbone of Scotch broth is the Scotch Broth Mix. Don’t worry this isn’t something only found in the outer reaches of the Highlands buried beneath the heather. No, it’s something you can buy in almost any supermarket throughout the UK either under the name of Scotch Broth Mix or just as Broth Mix.
It’s made up of pearl barley, split yellow peas, red lentils, green split peas and blue split peas. The latter are just green split peas with their skins still on.
You can of course make up your own Scotch broth mix but make sure that at least 50% of that mixture is the barley as it is the main component of the soup.
Soaking the broth mix
I soak my broth mix overnight in cold water (after rinsing it under the tap till water runs clear to remove any dust or debris in the dried broth mix) then drain through a sieve next morning once it has fattened up by absorbing as much of the water as it can.
The vegetables for traditional Scotch broth
Here in Scotland root vegetables were always the order of the day for soups. This is a hard country and your root veggies can usually withstand almost anything that Mother Nature cares to throw at them.
Carrots, turnip (swede if you live outside Scotland) and onion are the original choice in the veggie department. Things like celery weren’t introduced to this country when Scotch broth originally came into being.
The other vegetable that comes into play with Scotch broth is kale which is added just before serving so as to preserve its vibrant green colour.
Back in time every home in Scotland would have a small garden where you could grow vegetables to support your family. This was not referred to as a garden but as a Kale Yard as kale was the most important vegetable to grow there.
Kale was the original peasant food and after that was only ever used to feed cattle in Scotland. It is only in recent years that it has regained popularity due to its amazing health benefits.
If you’d mentioned such things as kale crisps to my Grandma she’d have laughed in your face thinking you were making a snack for the cattle.
Instead of adding the kale to my Scotch broth in the traditional method I decided to turn it into Pistou and add it to the finished broth. Pistou is the French version of Pesto hailing from the Provencal area of France.
Normally made from basil, garlic and olive oil (here is my homemade pistou recipe) it is very often added to soup just before serving in Soup de Pistou which is a summer vegetable soup. I have used it in my own version of this classic soup but mine is a Winter vegetable soup de Pistou!
Anyway my pistou is simply made using kale, olive oil and garlic and boy does it add a kick of amazing flavour to this simple Scotch broth.
The kale pistou will keep for up to a week in the fridge and you can use it just as you would pesto by adding to pasta, baked potatoes, bruschetta etc.
How much Scotch broth does this recipe make?
I’ve made this broth for 4 people and these are big hearty portions. If you were using small bowls you could get 6 portions out of this but I must admit I do like a nice big bowl of soup. If you want to make more just multiply the ingredients to suit.
Storage of Scotch Broth
This soup will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Though having said that back in my childhood that soup pot never saw the inside of a fridge in its life and we all survived. But don’t think of going that way, store your Scotch broth in the fridge please.
You can also freeze this soup for up to 6 months. I like to freeze my soups in those ziplock bags and lay them flay on a baking tray in the freezer till they are solid then I can ‘file’ them upright and they take up hardly any room in the freezer. Just make sure you remember to label the freezer bags clearly.
Serving this vegetarian Scotch broth
I serve mine with this swirl of kale pistou as a hearty lunch time meal either with oatcakes on the side (check out my recipes for homemade oatcakes) or a simple Scottish sida bread (here is my Scottish soda bread recipe).
I have even served my Scotch broth in shot glasses as part of a party buffer for Hogmanay and it features in my cookbook A Wee Taste Of Scotland which is packed with over 50 Scottish inspired party nibbles and drinks too.
So there you have it folks, a nice healthy yet hearty start to the New Year, my vegetarian Scotch broth with kale pistou. Hope you enjoy it.
Traditional Scotch Broth (vegetarian style!)
- large pan
For the soup
- 100 g Scotch broth mix
- 1 onion diced
- 400 g carrots chopped
- 125 g parsnips chopped
- 400 g swede/turnip chopped
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil or vegetable oil/olive oil
- 1 lt vegetable stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 g kale
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Scotch broth
- Rinse the broth mix under running water till water runs clear then put in a bowl and cover with at least 1 litre of cold water and leave overnight. Next day drain through a sieve.
- Heat the oil in a large soup pan and saute the onion for 5 minutes till softened but not browned
- Add the other soup ingredients and cook for a further 3 minutes
- Now add the broth mix and the vegetable stock and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
For Kale Pistou
- Whizz all ingredients in a mini food processor till you get a rich vibrant green sauce and season to taste.
- Serve the Scotch broth with s swirl of the pistou on top.