Based on the popular and delicious Scotch Broth, my Scotch Broth Soup is filling, hearty, and good for you too! Unlike the original which is prepared with lamb, mutton, or beef, this version is completely vegetarian and packed with pearl barley and lots of root vegetables!
It’s my favourite time of the year – almost! Christmas is my favourite time of the year, but soup season is a very close second! I love when the weather turns cold and the days get shorter. I get overly excited about piping hot soups, like this Scotch Broth Soup, and I love to wear socks and slippers around the house all day long.
That January and February weather; the cold and the frost, paired with the snow and ice – oh, I love it! Not only do I get to wear fleecy socks and sweaters, but I also get to layer the bed with extra blankets! And, I get to sip hot coffee while watching TV in the late evening, and I get to prepare and eat more soups. There’s a whole list of things I love about colder weather, especially being able to crochet with yarns instead of threads. (Crocheters will know what I’m talking about!)
So, in addition to the socks, sweaters, shorter days, etc., the comfort of home-cooked soups and stews greatly appeals to me. (This post is starting to sound like that song in The Sound of Music… what’s it called? My Favourite Things?) A great dinnertime option, I would wager any time of the year, but more so during the cooler months, is my Scotch Broth Soup. This soup is dense and has such a rich flavour, and the broth is thick and seasoned just perfectly. Let’s dig in!
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LET’S ADDRESS THE HATERS RIGHT NOW!
I’m probably going to get a few unfavourable comments about this Scotch Broth Soup recipe. Purists will think I butchered a classic. Someone is bound to say that soup without meat is not soup at all. And, no doubt, someone will send me a message asking what a Canadian is doing posting a Scottish recipe.
To get a jump on this, I’m going to address these concerns right now. I’m not actually butchering a classic. All I’m doing here is eliminating the portion of the original recipe that requires one to boil a ham bone with seasonings and vegetables to make a broth. I’m using vegetable broth and including the same seasonings and vegetables in my soup, so those flavours will most certainly be present.
I’m not a vegetarian, but John.e is. It is much easier for me to cook without meat rather than prepare two meals. Besides, I can always fry some bacon or ham and stir it into my bowl of soup. In fact, I do that often; like in the case of my Butternut Squash Soup and my Brussels Sprouts Soup too. And, as for soup needing meat to taste good, well that’s just crazy talk! One of the most popular soups of all time is tomato soup and that has no meat in it either!
Lastly, to those of you who would question why a Canadian is preparing a Scottish soup recipe, the answer is simple. I have Scottish origins. In fact, my roots are Scottish, Irish, and English and I’m 50% Scottish on my mom’s side. There you have it folks. Now, can we talk about this delicious soup?
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Onion – I use yellow, white, and sweet onions interchangeably. Either of them will do just fine.
- Carrots – I’m using small carrots and slicing them into rounds. If you only have larger carrots, you can peel and slice the carrot in half or into quarters lengthwise. Then, slice the carrots into 1/4-inch thick pieces.
- Celery – I love celery in soup, but it can overpower the flavour, so use it sparingly.
- Potatoes – Two large white flesh potatoes should do it. Peel and dice them into 1/2-3/4 inch chunks.
- Vegetable Stock – If you are using store-bought, use low sodium. Some of them can be overly salty!
- Seasonings – Salt, ground black pepper, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and bay leaves.
- Pearl Barley – Texture, flavour, and health benefits all come from the addition of barley.
- Parsley – For freshness, colour, and garnish.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BARLEY
Barley is a grain that doesn’t seem to get much attention. We love it, but still, we never eat it very much. In our home, it certainly does seem like a cold weather ingredient. For example, it’s the star of my Warm Barley Salad with Buttered Mushrooms and Shallots. And, I used it in yet another soup recipe, this time, it was my Barley Ground Beef Stew.
With its chewy texture and its nutty flavour, barley is a delicious grain that can be used in a number of ways, way beyond this soup. It is also a very nutritious and healthy food, with lots of fibre and a number of trace minerals like selenium, manganese and phosphorus.
Barley is available in two basic forms: hulled and pearl. Hulled barley has had the rigid, inedible outermost hull removed but still retains its bran and endosperm layer. It is the most nutritious of the two and can be considered a whole grain. A light golden brown in colour, it’s the nuttier and chewier version. In contrast, pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran and possibly even the endosperm layers, resulting in a pale, creamy-coloured grain. It is less chewy and cooks faster. I’m using pearl barley in this soup.
THE HOLY TRINITY OF A GOOD SOUP
Have you ever heard of a mirepoix? Sometimes, it’s referred to as the Holy Trinity of cooking. It is a flavour base made from diced vegetables cooked in some type of fat, usually, butter or oil. The veggies are sometimes cooked for a long period of time on very low heat. The goal is to not brown the veggies. Other times, they are cooked on a higher heat to bring out the natural sweetness. This is usually the case in soups.
A mirepoix is most often found combined with tomatoes or tomato paste. This creates a darker, brown mixture called a pincage. It is a long-standing cooking technique in French cuisine. Mirepoix is widely used to flavour a variety of Western dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces.
In Italian cuisine, the onions, carrots and celery are chopped to form a battuto. It is slowly cooked in butter or olive oil, becoming soffritto. It is used as the base for most pasta sauces, such as ragu, but occasionally it can be used as the base of other dishes, such as sautéed vegetables. Most of the time, the Italian version will also include garlic, shallots, or even leeks.
HOW TO MAKE SCOTCH BROTH SOUP
This soup is so easy to make. Unlike most soups that start with the sauteing of onions and garlic, this soup comes together by adding almost everything to the pot at once. This is another advantage to not including meat in this recipe! Here’s how I make this soup:
Add the water, vegetable stock, and bay leaves to a large soup pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the fresh chopped parsley. Stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer the soup for one hour, stirring occasionally, until the barley is fully cooked and the soup has thickened. Stir in the fresh parsley. Plate and serve immediately.
LEFTOVERS AND/OR FREEZING
This recipe does make about four hearty servings, which might be too much or too little, depending on the size of your family. The recipe can easily be halved or even doubled. Just be sure to use a really big soup pot if you’re doubling this recipe! Once everyone has had their fill, you might have some leftovers. If so, you can transfer the cooled soup to a food-safe container and store it in the fridge. It will keep for at least 3-4 days. Otherwise, you can freeze it and it will last for 3 months.
Here’s the thing about barley – even once it’s fully cooked through, it will continue to absorb liquid. That is why it is perfect for a soup, which is supposed to be thick anyway. If you do refrigerate or freeze the leftovers, you may need to add a bit of water to the soup when reheating. Start with just a few tablespoons of water at a time to avoid turning the soup into a broth! Of course, if you add more water, you will need to re-season as well.
Do You Like This Recipe?
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Scotch Broth Soup
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 4 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- Add the water, vegetable stock, and bay leaves to a large soup pot.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, add all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the fresh chopped parsley. Stir well to combine.
- Allow the soup to return back to a boil once again.
- Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
- Simmer the soup for one hour, stirring occasionally, until the barley is fully cooked and the soup has thickened.
- Stir in the fresh parsley.
- Plate and serve immediately.
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