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A huge pot hung over the fire which leapt in a shining black-and-steel range. A black kettle stood on one hob, a brown teapot on the other. Steam rose gently from the kettle and thickly from the great black pot, whence also came a continuous ‘plupping’ noise and the wonderful smell of a Broth

There has long been a great tradition of soup making and eating in Scotland. There are many reasons for this. Before people started to live in large cities it was usual for everyone to own a small garden and to grow sufficient vegetables for the household needs. It was typical of the Scottish housewife, who has always been thrifty and able to make much out of little, to make a pot of soup out of a little meat or a bone and her own vegetables, and feed a family on good nourishing fare. A century ago in the Highlands and outer isles, where the wind and the rain made gardening very difficult, the industrious housewife would use young nettles or wild sorrel or kail to replace the cultivated varieties of vegetables so common in Scotland today.

Oats are also widely used as a thickener in soups

Scotch Broth

‘Do you like your Scotch Broth, Dr Johnson?’
‘Ah! Very good for hogs, I believe.’
‘Then let me help you to a little more.’

Somewhat surprisingly, we find that this was an item which found great favour with Samuel Johnson. Boswell writes: " At dinner Dr Johnson ate several platefuls of Scotch broth with pease in them, and was very fond of the dish. I said, "you never ate it before, sir." "No, sir, but I don't care how soon I eat it again."

Scotch Broth is a bit of everything thrown into the pot and is quite a filling soup. In olden days Scots would eat this as a main meal. In modern times many Scottish households still serve Scotch Broth as a main meal rather than a starter soup. Ingredients can be substituted depending on your own tastes. It's best made the day before to allow the full flavour to soak through. Make a huge pot of it and boil it up each day, adding more tatties and water as needed. It is very warming when eaten during the winter and is popular on New Year’s Day. Scotch broth soup is sometimes called Barley Broth soup. 

1. Pre soak the barley and split peas 
2. Chop all the vegetables 
3. Melt a wee bit of lard/cooking oil and add the chopped onion. Once softened add the water and meat (you can just add stock rather than boil meat) and boil, skimming off any fatty deposits from the top. 
4. After boiling for about half an hour add the barley and peas and simmer for another 30 minutes. 
5. Add the remaining vegetables. 
6. If used, remove the bone and strip off the meat and return this to the pot. 
7. Some people might be tempted to give a dog the bone after making Scotch Broth. However the boiling of the bone weakens it, making it softer and causing fragments to come off when chewed by an animal. This stock bone could cause mouth ulceration, choking or tears to the lining of the stomach wall from bone fragments and cause dogs pain and discomfort. 
8. Add parsley before serving. Great with warmed bread rolls. 
9. If making a big pot full it'll keep provided you boil and stir each day. Though to be safe it would probably best be kept in the fridge or individual portions could be deep frozen and used as needed. 

Scotch Broth


One runner of beef or a good fresh marrow bone, which
makes as good broth as either beef or mutton,
5 quarts cold water, 1 cupful well-washed pearl barley.
When water is hot, put in beef and barley, and salt to taste; skim well;
Chop up six Brussels sprouts, 1 small cabbage or savoy, I small head of curley greens, and 3 leeks;
Cut and dice 1 good slice of swede turnip and 1 carrot;
Put in other 2 slices of turnip whole, and mash well afterwards as a vegetable.
Let the broth boil for a few minutes after vegetables are added with lid off.
Cook thoroughly and slowly, and skim now and again; attention to this makes such a difference to flavour.
Boil 3 hours, taking meat out when cooked 2 hours, and re-heating at the last.
Then 15 minutes before ready add I carrot grated and a good tablespoonful minced parsley.
Lift meat on to a hot dish, and serve with a little broth round it.
(If broth is for persons of weak digestion, scald vegetables before adding to broth by covering them for 10 minutes with boiling water.)

Tattie Soup

Tattie soup recipe is cheap to make and really filling. The secret to a good thick tattie soup is preparation and the use of a good base stock, though modern cooks may prefer to use stock cubes bought from the supermarket. 

Mutton stock would have traditionally been used for tattie soup but the use of chicken stock is more readily available. Try chopped chives or parsley for the garnish.

Ingredients For Soup Stock
Seasoning of salt and pepper. 
Two chopped carrots. 
A chopped turnip. 
A chopped onion and celery stick.

How To Make Soup Stock
It is easy to make soup stock though a little messy and time intense. Many cooks use left over carcasses from chicken or joints such as lamb or in olden days beef. Others use raw bones from the butcher. Whichever is used place the bones in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add the seasoning and bring to the boil and then simmer. During this time skim off the fatty scum and discard. 
After about three hours add the finely chopped vegetables and simmer for another two hours. Still keep skimming off the fat that rises to the surface of the pan. Remove from the heat and sieve the liquid into a new pan. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Please don't be tempted to keep the veggies for future soup, it will be tasteless because all the goodness is now in your soup stock. 

Ingredients For Tattie Soup
Four large chopped and quartered tatties. 
One finely chopped leek. 
One finely chopped onion. 
Two stalks of finely chopped celery. 
About 200mls of milk. 
50g of butter. 
Seasoning of salt, pepper, a bay leaf and fresh parsley for the garnish. 

Potato Soup

Prepare the vegetables by peeling, washing and chopping the potatoes, celery, onion and leek. 
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. 
Sauté the onion until it goes yellow brown and soft. 
Add the other vegetables, including the potatoes, and place the lid over the pan and continue to sauté the veg over a low heat for about ten minutes to soften them. 
Add the stock, seasoning and bay leaf. Bring gently to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour. Remove the bay leaf. 
Add the milk and if needed another 50g or 100g of butter depending on your preference. Turn up the heat but not enough to boil, just enough of a temperature to warm back up the soup mixture. 
Serve and garnish with the parsley or chives and enjoy the tattie soup with your favourite bread. 

Lentil Soup

Spicy Red Lentil Soup Ingredients:

1 medium sized onion 
3 medium carrots and potatoes 
1 red pepper 
125g red lentils (soak for 1 hour prior to cooking) 
1 teaspoon of paprika 
1 teaspoon of turmeric 
A pinch of cinnamon 
A pinch of cayenne pepper 
A 400g can of tomatoes 
750ml of water or vegetable stock (Ham Cubes or Boiled Ham Bree)
1 teaspoon of basil 
1 bay leaf 
Salt and pepper 

1. Chop the vegetables finely. 
2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and fry spices.
3. Add vegetables and lentils and stir and coat vegetables with spices. Cook for about 5 minutes. 
4. Cut up tomatoes, put them in a measuring jug and add enough water or stock to make 1.2 litres. 
5. Add this with basil and bay leaf to pan of vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. 
6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or stock if necessary. 
7. Enjoy! 

Cock a Leekie Soup 

is a delicious winter warming soup from Scotland often served as a starter at Scottish events such as Burns Night, St Andrews Night and as a Hogmanay treat. Cock a Leekie soup dates back to the 16th century when a fowl would be boiled with vegetables such as leeks to provide a filling broth and this is why Cock a Leekie soup is so named. 

A traditional Scottish Cock a Leekie soup recipe includes prunes though some cooks will leave the prunes out of their recipe because they are not to everyone's taste. Other chefs will include the prunes in the cooking of Cock a Leekie soup but will remove them before serving the soup. 

Ingredients For Cock a Leekie soup

One whole chicken or several pieces of uncooked and boned chicken wings, legs or quarters 
400g of leeks 
100g of precooked prunes that have had their stones removed 
25g of rice 
2 litres of water or soup stock 
One teaspoon of brown sugar 
Seasoning of salt and pepper, one bay leaf and some thyme
Parsley for the garnish 
Optional ingredients: Three rashers of chopped streaky bacon 

Place the chicken into a large pot and add the soup stock or water. Bring to the boil. As any fatty scum appears at the top of the pot of Cock a Leekie remove and discard. 

Wash the leeks and roughly chop into about 2cm pieces, using the green and white pieces, though some cooks prefer just to use the whites of the leeks. Once the chicken or chicken pieces have been boiling for about one hour add the chopped leeks and the herbs of bay leaf and thyme and bring back to the boil and then simmer for two hours. The salt and pepper if used can be added at this stage of the recipe for Cock a Leekie soup. If used the bacon should be thinly chopped and added to the soup pot. 

Serving the broth in bowls whilst serving the chicken on a platter and carved at the table to be put into the soup depending on the taste of each person. Avoid over cooking the chicken producing tough meat. 

During the simmering of this recipe for Cock a Leekie soup if the water goes down and the fowl or leeks are exposed then top up the water or soup stock. 

Test to see if the chicken has cooked by piercing the skin with a fork. No blood should come out and the fork should pierce the flesh easily. 

Take out the chicken, giblets or chicken pieces and the bay leaf. Set aside and save some chicken pieces to serve with the Cock a Leekie soup. The rest of the chicken can be used for other recipes, such as a Cock a Leekie pie.
Add the rice, there is no need to cook it separately as it will cook during the simmering. If you are using the traditional way to cook Cock a Leekie soup then drain the prunes of their juice and add the sliced prunes. Simmer for about thirty minutes. Once all the ingredients have cooked then add some thin chicken strips to the pot. Simmer for about ten more minutes and then serve with your favourite bread and garnish with some chopped parsley.

Cock a Leekie Soup

Highlander Soup

2 cups dried lentils or peas
3 lbs. ham or beef bone
1/2 cup diced celery
1 small onion, diced
1 cup cut carrots
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Wash lentils or peas & soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Add the recipe water & bones. Heat to boiling. Simmer 2 hours.
Add greens (celery) & carrots & simmer until lentils or peas are tender. Skim all fat from soup.
Remove bones, cut off any meat, dice it, & return diced meat to the soup. Saute onions, then add flour, salt and pepper.
Mix well. Slowly add one cup hot soup stock to onion mixture, cook until thick & smooth & return thickened mixture to rest of hot soup.

Kail Brose

2 heads of curly kail
4oz oatmeal
Half a pint beef stock
A little cream or top of the milk
Salt and pepper.

Boil the kail and sieve or chop very finely. Put back in pan and sprinkle in oatmeal. Add boiling stock. Stir well, season and add cream or milk. Serve with oatcakes and butter.

Scottish Herring Soup

2 small onions, finely chopped.
4 herrings, cleaned and boned.
1 oz butter.
2 oz mushrooms.
14 oz can tomatoes.
1 pint water.
3 tablespoons malt vinegar.
Salt and pepper.


Cut the herrings into 1/2 inch pieces and add with other ingredients to water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until onions are ready.

Cullen Skink

is one of Scotland's best soups: full-flavoured, hearty, and comfortingly creamy, it's just the thing to warm your cockles after a hard day's work on the Moray Firth – or even at the office.

Serves 6

500g undyed smoked haddock, skin on
A bay leaf
Knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek, washed and cut into chunks
2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks
500ml whole milk
Chives, chopped, to serve

1.  Put the fish into a pan large enough to hold it comfortably, and cover with about 300ml cold water. Add the bay leaf, and bring gently to the boil. By the time it comes to the boil, the fish should be just cooked – if it's not, then give it another minute or so. Remove from the pan, and set aside to cool. Take the pan off the heat.

2. Melt the butter in another pan on a medium-low heat, and add the onion and the leek. Cover and allow to sweat, without colouring, for about 10 minutes until softened.  Season with black pepper.

3. Add the potato and stir to coat with butter. Pour in the haddock cooking liquor and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potato is tender.

4. Meanwhile, remove the skin, and any bones from the haddock, and break into flakes.

5. Lift out a generous slotted spoonful of potatoes and leeks, and set aside. Discard the bay leaf. Add the milk, and half the haddock to the pan, and either mash roughly or blend until smoothish.

6. Season to taste, and serve with a generous spoonful of the potato, leek and haddock mixture in each bowl, and a sprinkling of chives.

Alternative Ingredients
2 small or 1 large Finnan Haddocks
1 large onion, finely chopped
2qt water
1 1/2 pt milk
Cooked mashed potato to thicken
2 oz butter
Salt and pepper
Garnish: some cream and chopped parsley

Place the fish and onion in water and bring to the boil.
Simmer gently until the fish is cooked.
Remove the fish, take off the skin and bones and return to the stock.
Simmer for another 20 minutes.
Add potatoes to give a creamy consistency.
Meanwhile flake the fish roughly and finally add to the soup.
Garnish with cream and parsley.
Worcester sauce.
Check seasoning and serve on buttered toast.,
If desired the fish may be served whole and the eggs scrambled as an accompaniment.

Doric Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink in English

Cullen Skink with Cranachan

Cullen Skink Again

Boyndie Broth (Oatmeal Soup)

A very economical, velvety and elegant soup which is quickly and easily prepared. The addition of good undyed smoked haddock or smoked salmon makes a good alternative to Cullen Skink.

50g (2oz) Scottish Porridge Oats
1 chopped onion
1 large carrot grated
2 tablespoons butter
550ml (1 pint) chicken stock
550ml (1 pint) milk
Salt and white pepper
Chopped chives or parsley
Cream for finishing (optional)

Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat. Add onions and carrot and cook gently until soft. Add oats to pan and cook for about four minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add milk and heat through. Season to taste. Add chives or parsley, and a little cream if desired.

The above makes a thick broth - use less oats and more stock if you prefer a thinner soup.


Sheep’s head and trotters, mutton, barley, peas, carrot, turnips, onions, parsley.

Sheeps' heads are not skinned in Scotland but singed only and this gives the good flavour to the broth.

Choose a large, fat, young head.
When carefully singed by the blacksmith, soak it and the singed trotters for a night, if you please, in lukewarm water. Take out the glassy part of the eyes, scrape the head and trotters, and brush till perfectly clean and white; then split the head with a cleaver, and lay aside the brains, etc., clean the nostrils and gristly parts, split also the trotters, and cut out the tendons. Wash the head and feet once more, and let them blanch till wanted for the pot.

Take a large cupful of barley, and about twice that quantity of soaked white, or old, or fresh green peas, with a gallon or rather more of water. Put to this the head, and from two to three pounds of scrag or trimmings of mutton, perfectly sweet, and some salt. Take off the scum very carefully as it rises, and the broth will be as limpid and white as any broth made of beef or mutton. When the head has boiled rather more than an hour, add sliced carrot and turnip, and afterwards some onions and parsley shred. A head or two of celery sliced is admired by some modern gourmands, though we would rather approve of the native flavour of this really excellent soup. The more slowly the head is boiled, the better will both the meat and the soup be. From two to three hours’ boiling, according to the size of the head and the age of the animal, and an hour’s simmering by the side of the fire, will finish the soup. Many prefer the head of a ram to that of a wether, but it requires much longer boiling. In either case the trotters require less boiling than the head. Serve with the trotters and sliced carrot round the head. Sheep’s head, not too much boiled, makes an excellent ragout or hash of a higher flavour than calf’s head ragout.

1 sheeps' head
1 chopped mixed root vegetables
8oz diced peeled potatoes
1 chopped onion or small leek
4oz barley
3 quarts cold water
2 tablespoons fine oatmeal
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 Singe the sheeps' head thoroughly.
2 Brush well.
3 Place in a bowl of cold salted water and leave overnight.
4 Clean well under running cold water.
5 Drain well, pat dry.
6 Place in a large pan of cold salted water.
7 Bring to the boil.
8 Skim off any scum.
9 Cover and simmer for 1 hour, skimming several times if necessary.
10 Add the diced vegetables..
11 Add the barley and oats.
12 Simmer for 30 minutes.
13 Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.
14 Simmer for another 30 minutes until tender.
15 Remove the sheep's head.
16 Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

In the days of yore the sheeps' head would be taken to the smiddy (blacksmith forge) to be singed.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013