Mutton and Barley Broth

Recipe from Catherine Gault
Submitted by Pilrig Press


Scrag end of mutton
850 ml water
100 g of pearl barley
50 g of dried peas
2 good size carrots
(to allow for a carrot-loving child)
Small piece of turnip
1 leek


Soak barley and peas overnight.

Boil mutton in water until cooked then remove from pot.

Add barley and peas and cook until soft.

Add chopped and grated vegetables.

My recipe is for a warming broth my mother used to make when I was a child. It consisted of barley and peas with carrot, turnip and leek in a mutton stock. It’s a somewhat rough and ready recipe with estimated quantities for the barley and peas. My mother never referred torecipes when cooking meals and making soup seemed to be simply something she knew how to do.

The making of the soup was a Sunday ritual, enough made to do on the Monday as well. In preparation the barley and peas were soaked overnight on the Saturday. Come Sunday the mutton was put onto to boil whilst the turnip and leek were chopped. The carrot was grated with always enough left over for me to munch on. When the meat was removed from the pot and set on a plate to cool, I would move from munching on the carrot to picking at the mutton, the slivers of meat all the more delicious for the pain of getting them.

By the time the soup was ready, the smell from the small kitchen had thoroughly whetted our appetites. The soup was a soft gold colour with the green of the peas standing out. It was thick, filling and very tasty, a real winter warmer. I always had a second helping and made a special point of having peas in every spoonful.

By Monday, having lain overnight in the pot on the stove, the soup was thicker and had even more flavour. It was so thick at times that water had to be added to get it out of the pot which ensured second helpings were available.

I make my own soup nowadays, still without reference to a recipe, though more often it is lentil soup, another childhood staple, rather than the broth with barley and peas. And as a vegetarian, meat stock is out of the question. Yet despite that, it is that warming, nutritious broth I think of with nostalgia. And when I do make my lentil soup it tends to be on a Sunday with enough left over to do on the Monday.

bones-and-whisperslowresCatherine Gault’s most recent novel is Bones and Whispers. Her love of Edinburgh, with its twists and turns and nooks and crannies, inspires her writing. Now working on her second novel she continues to find that walking the city provides the inspiration and sustenance she requires.

Catherine Gault is published by Pilrig Press.