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  • Writer's picturePaula Wilson-Young

Is Scotch Broth 'good for you'?

I don’t know about you – but Scotch Broth is my absolute favourite comfort food in winter and I know its a decent, cheap meal and offers the ultimate comfort of eating a steaming hot bowl of soup when getting home after spending time out in the cold.

It takes me back to my childhood – to being snowed in (I lived in East Kilbride), to having fantastic fun with my Dad, my sister, our friends and neighbours having epic snow ball fights, building huge big snow men, even attempting to build an igloo!

We then got called in by my lovely wee Mammy who’d made a HUGE pot (I now have that pot) of Scotch Broth, typically so thick you you could almost stand a spoon in it! We would sit round the dining table with our Esso bowls (my dad was a taxi driver and collected A LOT of points – so we had a lot of Esso stuff - and Im not 100% the bowls below were from Esso - but in my head they are!) bowl in our hands enjoying the smell, as the heat slowly warmed our frozen digits.

The soup was an elixir, warming my soul. For me there is no other soup that provides that same comfort for me – and I will forever miss both my Mum and my Grans versions – why is our own version never quite as good – must be the love our home chefs poured into it.

Yang Sheng: Nurturing vitality.

My recent studies in self care (Jing Shen) with the amazing Alex Jacobs has reignited my interest in food from a TCEAM perspective – people in China and other eastern Asian countries look at food in a very different way to how we do – it's not about calories and fat and sugar and salts, its about how it interacts with your body – how the nutrients are absorbed. Does it warm you up, energise you, leaving you feeling sluggish and heavy?

His course focused very much on foods typically eaten in Asia – Taiwan in particular (as that is where he lived, and still studies himself with his Doctor there), he now lives in London so China town is a regular haunt for him – he even offers tours of the supermarket if your ever in London!!. However for us in Scotland, although there are more and more Asian supermarkets (despite the wonderful See Woo having closed which breaks my wee heart!) many of these ingredients aren’t so readily available. I am also aware of how important it is to reduce our carbon footprint, to attempt to eat more locally and more seasonally.

So I thought I’d take a look at my favourite winter dish, good old, humble Scotch Broth, through the lens of TCEAM.

In South Korea they would consider Scotch broth a ‘stew’ rather than a soup – their soups are far more liquid – think Miso soup – we’d probably class it as more tea like!

Soups by their very nature ensure that you are optimising the nutritional content of the foods because you also consume the liquids the food is cooked in – so nothing is wasted. Also by cooking the foods you are starting to break them down, making them easier to digest. This means our digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard.

I have taken this recipe from Scottish Scran, but I must admit I tend to make it as a veggie version…

To understand the benefits of this meal for this season its helpful to understand the energetics of the season. As the air cools the moisture falls, returning to the earth (think frosts – and your dryer skin), it becomes colder and our energy retreats inwards, like the trees.

Winter in Chinese Medicine (TCEAM)

Winter is the peak Yin season (you can learn more on my talk on the 21st December), to thrive in winter we must learn to be more Yin generally – to retreat, withdraw, preserve our energy (Yang). Yin and Yang are opposites, and interdependent on each other - they need each other, and transform into each other. Winter is associated with the Water element, and the organs of the Kidney and Bladder (don’t be surprised if you see more problems with these organs at this time of the year). The Kidneys are said to house our most precious energy – Jing.

Jing is the energy that creates life, we gain it from our parents ( & ancestors) and it is finite – when it runs out we die. It is associated with our development, with our physical and mental maturity and it naturally declines as we age. TCEAM holds that we need to protect it in order to live a long healthy life. If we use it all up too young we will suffer in our later years. I like to think of it as our trust fund – something we want to have access to, but that we don’t ‘blow it all’ by the time we are 25. If we manage our own, current account well we don’t need to tap in to our trust fund – but can leave it for emergencies. Eating well helps to keep our current account topped up.

By learning to live in flow with nature it is said that we can improve our own health, in winter if we slow down, turn our thoughts inwards, spend time contemplating our year that has passed, considering what we have learned, what we could change if we so desired.

To prepare our bodies for the next season (spring), one of dynamic movement and outward growth we need to ensure there is enough fuel (qi and yang) to give us the oomph we need to take on the challenges of spring.

So we need to protect and build our qi and yang (which have been used throughout the spring and summer), when they are not readily available in our environment.

A great way to do this is through the foods we choose to eat - bring us back to soup!

What the individual ingredients do:

Nourish qi (tonifys the spleen/stomach)

carrot, barley, pea (helps smooth the flow of qi), Lamb( also warming) Butter White cabbage

Nourish yang

Onions (warming) leek

Clears/drains damp

carrot, turnip, barley, parsley

Moves blood

leek, turnip

Nourishes blood

turnip, barley, Lamb, butter

Please note some ingredients do more than one thing, and this is an oversimplification of what foods do.

Salt is cooling, helps to dry us up a bit.. while pepper is warming, (sometimes even hot like chilli), white pepper is less extreme than black pepper.

Butter is more yin nourishing – so helps to balance out all the heat, as well as being moistening, as is of course the liquid you are also consuming.

YES!!! Scotch broth is good food, and perfect for winter!

This shows that this particular, traditional Scottish soup helps to nourish our Qi, our Yang, and it helps to clear Damp (a very Scottish problem!). All perfect to support us in winter!

It makes me very happy that the Scottish foods I love can be understood from a TCEAM perspective and that our traditional foods are great seasonal foods that help our bodies thrive in our winters!


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