International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Scotch Broth

A bowl of Scotch broth with oatcakes

(Scottish lamb, barley and root vegetable stew)

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This simple, hearty stew is a Scottish classic, a sublimely nourishing mix of lamb, swedes (rutabagas), barley and split peas. Shredded kale or cabbage sometimes gets stirred in at the end to give an extra burst of color, texture and fresh flavor.

A good, long soak is important for the barley and split peas and ensures that they cook thoroughly. The peas in particular break down and thicken the stew.

4 to 6 servings


  • Pearl barley -- 1/2 cup
  • Green or yellow split peas -- 1/2 cup
  • Oil -- 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • Onions, chopped -- 2
  • Celery, chopped -- 2 stalks
  • Lamb or beef stewing meat, cubed -- 2 pounds
  • Stock or water -- 2 quarts
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Turnips or rutabagas (swedes), peeled and chopped -- 2 or 3
  • Carrots, peeled and chopped -- 3
  • Cabbage or kale, shredded (optional) -- about 2 cups
  • Parsley, chopped -- 2 tablespoons


  1. Put the barley and split peas in a bowl or saucepan and add water to cover by at least 2 inches. Set aside to soak overnight, or for at least 4 hours. For a quicker alternative, you can bring it all to a boil on the stove, remove from heat, cover and let set for about 1 hour. Either way, once your soaking is done, drain your barley and peas and proceed with the recipe.
  2. Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and celery and saute until the onions are cooked through and translucent, 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the lamb, stock or water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover loosely and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender.
  4. Add the turnips or rutabagas and carrots and simmer for anouther 45 minutes.
  5. Finally, stir in the kale or cabbage if using, along with the parsley, and simmer for another 15 minutes or so.
  6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with dinner rolls or oatcakes.

Scotch Broth Variations

  • Meat: Try using lamb or beef shanks instead of stew meat for an especially rich stew.
  • Scotch broth mix: Scots will often use a prepackaged mix of beans and whole grains called Scotch broth mix. It typically contains both yellow and green split peas, as well as blue peas and lentils.
  • Scotch broth is ideal for simmering in a slow cooker. Or use a pressure cooker to speed up the process considerably.


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