Homemade broth is a soup to feed the nation and keep us happy and healthy – Jim Duffy

Making broth at home will give you a real sense of accomplishment, writes Jim Duffy.

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 4:45 pm
Scotch broth, like a curry, can be made in a whole variety of ways (Picture: Bill Henry)
Scotch broth, like a curry, can be made in a whole variety of ways (Picture: Bill Henry)

I just don’t dig arty-farty chefs. You know the ones I mean. All that drizzling of purple sauces over the edge of a plate of steak and chips. The chefs who use shallots instead onions and put beer in the fish-and-chip-shop batter to posh it up for heaven’s sake.

No, my old grandma in Kilbirnie along with my mammy would be horrified at such vanity and vulgarity with food. And they should know. They fed whole families on wholesome grub that tasted great without the flummery and decor. So, now we have taken a position on gastro chefs, let’s look at that one staple of Scottish cuisine that has and still does feed the nation – soup!

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Scottish soup is, I have to argue, the best meal that money can buy. Nutritious, adaptable and hearty, it warms your cockles and totally butters my parsnips inside out. Easy to prepare and serve up, Scottish soup should be trademarked across the globe. Especially my grandma’s.

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However, if we are to dig down a little and forensically examine soup fae Scotland, one needs to be more specific. I’m not talking about that Cullen Skink stuff that is full of cream and costs a bloody fortune cause it’s got a bit of fish in it and maybe a few prawns. And I’m most definitely not interested in that cock-a-leekie-soup.

No, what we are focusing on this weekend in your kitchen is the good old Scotch broth-type affair.

And I use the term ‘affair’ as it is so versatile and open to your own interpretation of what is good for you. That’s the best bit. The Indian continent has produced some of the best tastes around via curry. Curry in Scotland is well loved and has so many fusions of flavours.

But, did you know the Indian interpretation of curry is soup? Yes, essentially a curry is just what grandmas in India created to feed their families on a budget as well. So, when creating your Scottish broth this weekend you are allowed to curry up some amazing ingredients and flavours.

First up for that essential Scottish broth is the current debate on meat-eating or veganism. My old grandma would’ve had no clue what a vegan was, probably confusing it with Dr Spock from Star Trek, who was in fact a Vulcan. How times have moved on, eh?

But, she would boil up some chicken and use this as both the stock for the soup and the main ingredient. Having boiled it she would drain the stock and then pick apart the chicken into little pieces and scatter them into the soup pot with that oh so delicious stock. But, if eating chicken doesn’t float your boat, then a couple of veggie stock cubes will form the base just as nicely.

Things begin to get a bit tricky now as, just like the Indian grannies who would use the local ingredients in their curries, so too Scottish grannies played around with their soups, probably on a needs-must basis.

But, the next four ingredients are pretty much agreed on by most Scottish nannies. They are onion, carrot and red lentils and parsley. Three are terrific and healthy staples that already have me itching for a bowl right now. Onion to thin the blood, carrot for vitamin A and good eyesight and lentils for healthy blood sugars and fibre. I’m not sure what nutritional value parsley has, but it tastes superb. I told you, this stuff is the business... Now we can mix and match to our hearts are content.

My granny would not make her soup without some pearl barley. She would tell me this would “stick to my ribs”, which I never really understood, but somehow it would make me stronger, I guess? A good couple of handfuls of barley beefed up the soup, giving it texture and a real heartiness. For me, this should really be one the five essentials, but some grannies are not fans. They would prefer some small chopped tatties. No too much mind or it becomes tattie soup, which is very different from a Scottish broth.

Having added barley this creates an earthy taste to the soup, which I feel needs some salt to counteract this. My wife would argue strongly against this. And just like Trump and Biden, we take opposing positions on how salty food in general should be. But, as I said, it’s your soup this weekend so you decide.

Finally, you can now actually tailor your Scottish broth to how you live your life or how inventive you want to be. The next bunch of ingredients are simply suggestions. So, here we go.

Peas first. I just love a big handful of this super-food added to my soup. Not only do they absorb the stock and taste awesome, they add more fibre, fill and colour to the soup. And don’t be put off by those posh chefs who may turn their noses up at this. Remember it’s your “curry” and you set the rules. So, peas are a must for me.

Next up – rice. My mum used to add rice to her soup as a filler. But, one has to be careful as it can either work well with the barley or potentially add too much depth. So, if you want your soup to be a real tummy filler as well as winter warmer, then rice can work well.

To finish it all off, your weekend soup can be consumed alone or with some lovely bread. You can butter your bread or simply have it as it comes.

And there you go, Scottish broth that will last at least three days in the fridge and longer in the freezer, and give you a huge sense of accomplishment and well-being as you prepare and cook it. Have fun and remember those proud Scottish grannies who fed a nation.

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