13 May 2015

Hot food on a cool day

I asked Hanno to buy some lamb neck chops for me last week and since then they've been sitting in the freezer ear-marked for Scotch broth. I made a thick version of it yesterday. I know it doesn't sound appetising but if we're not going to waste any part of the animals we slaughter for meat, neck chops must come into play at some point.  Lucky they are so delicious.  This is an old recipe I've been eating all my life. It's my mother's recipe but there is a very similar version in Maura Laverty's wonderful classic Irish cooking book, Full and Plenty.

For two people, you'll need four neck chops. If you can't find neck chops, look for forequarter chops. There isn't much meat on each chop so if you're a big meat eater, you'll need more. Trim the fat off the chops and cut up your vegetables.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • the green top off a head of celery, or two sticks of celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato
You can add other root vegetables such as swedes, turnip, parsnip if you want to.

You'll also need:
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup washed pearl barley
  • 1 ½ litres water, maybe more

You'll need a cast iron Dutch oven. If you don't have one, start the cooking in a frying pan and transfer it all to an oven proof dish with a lid for slow cooking in the oven. Neck chops are one of the cheapest cuts of meat and usually have a bit of gristle and cartilage. Long slow cooking dissolves that part of the meat and you end up with meat falling off the bone and dissolved nutrients, such as glucosamine, in the broth. You don't have to bother about making stock for your sauce either. You'll cook the meat on the bone with a lot of vegetables so you'll make stock as you cook.

Add a small amount of oil to the pot on the stove and start cooking the lamb. When they've browned, add the vegetables and allow them to get some colour.  All the colour you add at this point is extra flavour in the finished dish. When you have a bit of colour on the meat and vegetables, add salt, pepper and the paprika. Then add the washed barley and pour in the water.

The barley will thicken the broth and the more you add, the thicker it will be. Don't go overboard because it soaks up a lot of water. Put the lid on the pot, bring it to the boil and then place it in a preheated oven on 160C for about two hours.  Test taste for seasoning and add more if it needs it.

A cheap alternative to serving this with potatoes is to make herb dumplings. They're delicious and go really well with all sorts of stews and soups. Men love dumplings and even though these chops don't have much meat on them, with the addition of the dumplings, it's filling and delicious.

To make dumplings:
  • 3 cups SR flour
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • enough water to make a dough - like a scone dough
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs - parsley, chives or whatever you like the taste of
Rub the butter into the flour, salt and pepper with your fingertips and when it looks like breadcrumbs, add the chopped herbs and enough water to make a moist but not wet dough.  Form the dough into balls and add to the broth in the last 20 minutes of cooking.

And that's it. A delicious and hearty meal for a very low price. I hope you try it.



  1. Oh, my! Yum! Thanks for this recipe-I'm going to try making it. I used to love Scotch Broth when I could get it in the grocery store (Campbell's Soup). Homemade will be so much better. With dumplings, no less....you're right, men do love dumplings ;) Who doesn't, though?
    You mentioned that lady's Irish Cookbook in a post about making yeast bread with the refrigerator. You must be getting a bit of good from that cookbook.

    1. Hi Mary. I guess I relate to Maura's cooking because I grew up eating that sort of food. It's honest food that's packed with flavour. I hope you enjoy this recipe.

  2. Rhonda, This looks so good. I will have to look for lamb neck chops next time at the grocery store. Until then I have some pork neck bones in the freezer. I think I will try this will those, I think it would work wouldn't it?

  3. This sounds really delicious. Finding lamb neck chops around here though is akin to finding hen's teeth. Really the only lamb-ish thing that I ever see in grocery stores is leg of lamb every now and then usually around Easter time. I love soups with barley in them so warm and filling. Maybe I will try Peascod's suggestion and try it with pork neck bones. I think I can come by those here in Indiana.

  4. I made Scotch Broth recently - but not with dumplings, or sweet potatoes. Yours looks so very hearty!

  5. Oh that does just make my mouth water! Grandma cooked like this and I still love it. It is the kind of thing that the boys rave about "mom used to make" and my daughters in law all roll their eyes and say "there is no recipe"! We are eating more cool food as our days warm up but it still looks yummy!

  6. My in-laws did something similar with the neck meat from the deer they harvested last fall, except they did that in the slow-cooker. They said it was delicious, and unbelievably tender.

    1. This would cook really well in the slow cooker. Start it in the frying pan frist to develop the flavour and then a few hours in the SC. Delish!

  7. When mum made casseroles when I was a small child she thickened them with pearl barley. I'd always ask her what tasted so good and she'd say it was a secret ingredient. It wasn't until I was much older that she told me it was pearl barley. :)

  8. That looks so delicious. Did I miss the call from you for an invite to dinner?

  9. Yum~! Thank you so much for the great recipe. I made this last night for our supper and it was delish~! My German 'Nana' made wonderful barley stews and it reminded me of hers (and I was 10 years old again). One thing was different: the sweet potato.
    The addition of sweet potato is genius. I think I will add that to my list of ingredients for many of my soups/stews. The creaminess it imparts is the perfect texture and the hint of sweetness is just that somethin', somethin' you can't quite identify, but makes you *want* to take another bite of goodness.

  10. Thanks for the recipe, Rhonda. We don't have lamb often, but I will be on the lookout for some neck chops. I must confess I have never noticed them before. This sounds perfect for the cold wintry days we've been having. Will probably use the slow cooker as well.

  11. This looks wonderful, look at that rich broth! I wish we lived on the same hemisphere so that I could make this for my family now. We're in Texas, and it's a little beyond lamb soup with barley. Oh, I may just make it anyway!

  12. I have noticed that like lamb shanks the price of necks are getting higher. I have slow cooked them in a tomato sauce for many years.

  13. Oh this is so yummy! Do you think I can substitute quinoa or potato flakes for the barley or maybe something else for the barley? I have celiac and I can't eat barley.


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