Scotch Broth, or Barley-Broth

Roast lamb bones and vegetables in a stock potSome would think this is the inside of my compost bin, but it’s actually the inside of my stockpot: roasted lamb bones and vegetables, as well as all the darkly caramelized bits scraped from the bottom of the roasting tray. These flavours formed the soul of the Burns Supper, as the resulting stock was used not only in the soup, but also in the haggis and the clapshot. They were the mellow, earthy foundation of the entire meal.

Making a pot of stock the night before a large meal has become a very fond tradition. The house fills with the aroma first of roasting bones, then of the simmering stock, while excitement for the coming meal slowly accrues.

Some specifics on the stock. First I roasted lamb bones from Four Whistle Farm. It’s hard to come by good lamb femur bones, I think because of the popularity of leg roasts and shanks. A touch of tomato paste was smeared over the bones for the latter half of the roasting. Then onion, carrot, celery, and garlic were baked. The pans were deglazed with water, and bay and rosemary were added. Finally the whole lot was covered in cold water, brought to a simmer and left overnight.

 

Barley-Broth, with kale and scrag

The first course of my Burns Suppers is always barley-broth, which in North American is usually called Scotch broth.  Vegetable-wise the soup contains onions, kale, and carrots.  The pearled barley is cooked in a separate pot so that it doesn’t cloud the stock.

The final garnish is lamb neck, or scrag. Neck is a variety-cut that sounds a lot grosser than it really is: the meat is indistinguishable from that of the shoulder. The necks are seared, braised in some of the lamb stock, cooled, shredded, and added to the soup.

A bowl of barley-broth, with kale and scrag

 

 

Mincemeat

A jar of mincemeat, reading to age in the fridgeThis is a dish that confused me for some time. “Minced” means broken up (it’s actually related to the word “minute,” as in exceedingly small). The British use the word “minced” in places we might use the word “ground,” so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.

Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.

Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma’s recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:

  • beef chuck
  • suet
  • apples
  • dried currants
  • sultana raisins
  • citron (I believe this refers to candied lemon peel, not actual citron fruit…)
  • cider (knowing my grandma, non-alcoholic)
  • spices


The ingredients were chopped, cooked, and canned. 
I’m still trying to come up with a definition. “Dried fruit, usually with fat, sometimes with meat,” might work, but, “Dried fruit and whatever else you have on hand” is probably the safest. This week I had suet, apple preserves, dried cranberries, dried currants, raisins, and brandy.

I was initially excited about the preserving potential of mincemeat, but most of the ingredients are already shelf-stable, and those that aren’t (beef, apples) are probably best preserved in other ways. At any rate, the mix keeps very well, and actually benefits from storage, much like fruitcake. It makes a great pie. The partially reconstituted fruit has a very satisfying chew.

Notes on my version:

  • I add meat to my mince.   I heavily browned the meat before adding it to the other ingredients to develop flavour texture.
  • I used lamb suet and shoulder, instead of beef.  I happen to have lots of lamb right now.
  • I processed the mixture for a finer, more consistent texture

 

Lamb Mincemeat
2011′s version, grafting my grandmother’s recipe to Alton Brown’s, and using lamb instead of beef

Ingredients

  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 8 oz sultana raisins
  • 4 oz dried sour cherries
  • 4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 2 ounces lamb suet, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz ground lamb shoulder
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground clove

Procedure

  1. Heavily brown the ground lamb in a hot, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan.  The meat should be a deep amber on all surfaces.  Strain the meat to separate it from any rendered fat.  Chill thoroughly.
  2. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs in a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are well-combined and desired texture is achieved.  Pulsing 10 times will give a mincemeat with a coarse texture.  I prefer a finer, more homogeneous texture.
  3. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge atleast 1 week before using.  Keeps for 6 months.

An individual mincemeat pie