Despite my preference for homemade soups, there have always been a couple of "easy soups" the family and I enjoy. One of these was Campbell's Scotch Broth, a very hearty barley soup made with lamb.
Unfortunately, Campbell's recently made a business decision to discontinue several of their soups which were based on relatively costly ingredients so they could concentrate on their various chicken noodle soups marketed at kids and based around their cheap and crappy chicken broth. That's why, if you're a fan of Campbell's Lentil Soup or Bean With Bacon, you might be having trouble finding them since they're getting pushed aside for the astounding eleven varieties of chicken noodle swill aimed directly at kids. (Seriously, Campbell's, does the market really need Disney Princess Soup? Disney Pixar Cars Soup? Spongebob Squarepants Soup? Give me a damn break.)
Anyway, Scotch Broth is gone from the American market. It's still available in Canada, so maybe I'll take a drive up to Quebec sometime and smuggle some back. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with making my own.
Scotch BrothMakes about 2 quarts
2 tablespoons olive oil2 pounds of meaty lamb neck bones (see note)1 large onion, chopped3 carrots, choppedWater1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley2 bay leaves6 whole peppercorns1½ cups of barley2 tablespoons tomato pastesalt and pepper to taste
Lamb neck bones have a lot of muttonylicious flavor with a decent charge of meat, but they aren't always easy to find. You can substitute a couple of cheap lamb shoulder chops or a shank if you prefer.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the lamb bones. Over medium heat (be careful not to scorch the oil) brown the lamb well on all sides. Add the onions and the carrots and stir over the heat until the onions are amber and translucent. Pour in about two quarts of water (enough to cover the bones well and bring the soup to a simmer, adding the parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns. Simmer for about four hours to make a very rich lamb stock, adding water now and then as needed.
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a full rolling boil in a separate pot. Pour in the barley and simmer it for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the barley is plump and tender but still somewhat chewy. Drain the barley well and then rinse it in cold running water to shock it from cooking further. Put the cooked barley aside (perhaps in the refrigerator) until needed for the soup.
Back to the lamb stock: When the meat is soft and falling off the bones, remove the stock from the heat. Take out the bones and discard them, returning the meat to the pot. Bring the stock back up to a simmer and add the barley, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.