Jan, Big Eilene, and Little Eilene are off to Third Mesa to visit Hopi Eileen and to work on some quilts. While Jan is away, I tend to use up all of the lamb bones that have collected in my freezer to make a Scotch broth. This is a soup that I love, but that Jan cannot stand. Since I am feeding only myself, I decided to pare down the usual amount of liquid and make it more of a stew.
Note: Little Eilene is named after Big Eilene, but she is now almost a foot taller.
Note 2: Shock of all shocks—Third Mesa now has cell reception! Jan told me last night that they had finished two quilts—including one that Miriam had started when she was there almost 10 years ago. Today they were planning to work on a third one.
When I buy a leg of lamb for a special occasion I remove the bone(s) and butterfly the meat. When I buy a shoulder chop I usually trim off the rib cage bits. I save these for soup, like I do with my frozen bits of chicken. These make a great broth as a soup starter as well as being economical.
Scotch broth is generally not an exciting stew. To give this one a bit of bright color I replaced the leek with baby spinach. to add a bit more flavor I also added some rubbed sage. Scotch broth is meant to be sustaining and to keep you warm and well fed in the cold Scottish Highlands.
Karl’s Scotch Lamb and Barley Stew (a Scotch Broth)
1 lb. lamb bones with meaty bits
½ lb. lamb shoulder chop
1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 carrot, grated (about ½ cup)
1 stalk celery, diced fine (about ½ cup)
½ cup green cabbage, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. rubbed sage
½ tsp. black pepper
½ cup semi-purled barley
2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
1. Lay the lamb bones, and any bits of fat, in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and broil them for 10-15 minutes per side.
Tip: I used to brown the bones in the pot with butter, but this technique was uneven, messy and hazardous. The spitting grease was just waiting to splash on your hands. Broiling give the meat and bones a more even browning for a good Maillard reaction and allows you to more easily control how much fat ends up in your soup. Laying some aluminum foil in the pan makes clean up much easier.
Note: There is a debate among Scotch broth aficionados, about whether to brown the meat or simply add it directly into the water, so you get a more subtle lamb flavor. I like the strong flavor of the browned meat.
2. Put the bones in a large soup pot and add 4 cups of water.
Tip: Reserve about two tablespoons of the rendered lamb grease for sautéing the vegetables.
3. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, until the chop is falling apart when you pick it up.
Tip: If there is foam on the surface of the pot, use a sieve or spoon to remove it and discard.
4. Remove the meat and bones to a bowl and cool. Strip the meat and break it into small bite sized pieces. Reserve in a bowl until needed.
Tip: If you have time, you may continue to simmer the bones for another hour. Discard the bones and any large lumps of fat.
5. Strain the broth and reserve it in a bowl.
Note: When you are done simmering you want about two cups of lamb broth. Make up and shortfall with waster. If you wish you may scrape the marrow out of the bones and add it back to the pot after straining the broth.
6. Let the broth settle for 15 minutes and then ladle most of the lamb fat off the surface into a small cup. Put the cup in the freezer for 30 minutes while you are finishing the soup.
Tip: Much of the flavor in many dishes is in the fat. You do not want to remove all of the fat from the soup, you simply do not want it to be too greasy. Do not be concerned that you are ladling up some of the broth as well as the fat. Congealing the fat in the freezer will allow you to scrape off the fat and add the good broth back to the pot.
7. Without cleaning the pot, sauté the onions with the salt for 5 minutes, until just translucent.
Tip: If there is not enough lamb fat clinging to the pot add some of the reserved lamb grease to sauté the vegetables.
8. Add the carrots, celery, and cabbage. Sauté the vegetables for three minutes more.
9. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the garlic to the hole in the center. Saute the garlic for one minute, until fragrant.
10. Add the sage, pepper and stir in the reserved broth.
11. Stir in the barley and bring the pot to a boil.
12. Cover the pot and reduce the heat. Simmer the stew for 40-50 minutes, until the barley is tender.
Tip: Stir the pot a few times during the simmering to prevent the barley from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching.
13. Remove the fat cup from the freezer and scrap out the fat. Return any broth to the pot.
Tip: This excess fat may be discarded or you can use it to make oat cakes to go with your Scotch stew.
14. Add the baby spinach and the reserved meat to the pot and continue cooking for 5-10 more minutes, until the spinach is well cooked and the meat is heated through.
Tip: This Scotch stew is meant to be thick, but if it is too thick for you, add some water to thin it a bit when you add the meat.