The traditional Sunday lunch in our house when we were growing up was the one pot wonder of broth that be scotch, a 2 course meal cooked in one pot. The process that was started on the Friday, with selecting the best “cut” which from what I remember ranged from flank, neck, shoulder, leg and defrosted for Saturday morning, placed in the big pan, as it came to be known, and taken slowly up to simmer. The next process that I would witness would not help in the cause of “there goes another food item onto the ever-growing list of mine” and this is the process which I know now to be called skimming or removing the scum to be a bit more blunt. It’s the process in which a ladle or spoon is used to remove any impurities that float to the top of stock from source that would make it cloudy and at the same time cloud my mind of child, that this is definitely one that has made it to the top of the list of not liking, but would be acceptable if the whole broth to be passed, for want of a better word through a sioltachan, I finally get to use that word in a sentence, I think it’s one of these words that sounded quirky and was used in our house hold growing up speaking Gaelic that you don’t hear very often or even heard back then, I now feel a sense of accomplishment.
Anyway, step 2 of said broth. After a lengthy period of time at a gentle simmer and the odour of cooked wet meat condensing on the single pane windows and the big pan being positioned on the best area of the stove top, twinned with the old water kettle that served its duty from when I can remember, all day, every day, for many years, for what ever purpose, and length of time it was was on, for it serving the whole family diligently for every occasion, boiled water at the ready for cooking, cleaning, foot bath, happy and sad times and the making of the all important cup of tea, in the for most of the stained stainless steel tea pot, with the brand 99 loose leaf tea variety that if you turned your back for to long, the over-spill hitting the plate of the stove soon catches ones attention, followed by the amber beads that have dispersed and are now dancing in some form of sequence around the stove top before running off the plate and just giving up on edge after such a theatrical performance. The put on the tea pot was such a treat that it was a time where you sat down and enjoyed the tea and looking back now probably appreciated it more, rather than the throw it into the cup, tea bag into the milk first debate, drinking it on the go, while walking or driving that our busy lives lead us this way.
Any ways, back to the broth. The vegetables consisted of the usual culprits, carrot, turnip and onion, sometimes leek and the occasional stick of celery, which I’m sure can be debated and the Great Scot broth mixture which has been soaked over night for no reason other than reducing the cooking time, a touch of Saxa salt and some pepper, again the latter one is debatable in many households.
The pan now is left alone, it is now lunch time on Saturday, the soup is developing, all vegetable preparation is organised and not another vegetable shall be chopped, unopened tins shall remain that way. With Sunday fast approaching and all electrics pulled from the walls, worries of modern technology hadn’t really gripped us then, there was no iPads, iPhones or smart phones and nobody knew or even heard about wifi, yes the games console made an appearance, and on the occasion a very quick disappearance, I think that might have had been a 4 mebans issue. To be honest reflecting back on that time of iconic innocence of peace/and not so peaceful times as a family on Sundays was setting us up for treasured memories that we would look back on one day, the only problem was, we were kids and we just didn’t know then of what the true meaning of making memories meant.
Stage 3 of broth. A cold Sunday was a distance of leaving a warm bed, onto the cold landing, down a staircase, Down the lobby (I stayed in the east wing)and to the door leading into the kitchen, met with a very comforting heat and peat fragrance from the stove that was fully loaded with peat from the cúil móine that had been filled to the brim on Saturday. The stove was well underway to fuel every radiator in the house and the hot water tank, a job it did fairly quickly with help of two open fires to heat our home.
Before being transferred onto the top of the stove it is important to remove the lid from the big pan to reveal a disc of some times varying degrees of thickness, depending on the cut of meat that is used. This must be removed before any heat is given to the pan, this can be done with the aid of a slotted spoon or sometimes in one swift manoeuvre, lifted off in almost one piece. If you fail to remember this vital part in the recipe, and it can and has happened, I’m sure some will recollect that sensation as the soup is being eaten and the solidification that occurs around ones lips.
So everything is well timed for around 1.30pm or as near enough to when the church service finished, with us on the look out from the window for human traffic of mass heading in both directions, at this point the message was passed on through the house to the kitchen and it was at this point of the “recipe” that the meat was lifted out of the pan and onto a flat for it to be manageable to carve, and that was the usual 2 courses ready for our traditional Sunday lunch. The broth from the meat being one and the meat and accompanying vegetables and potato being the second.
From what I remember with the cutting and preparation of the vegetables, even from other households they were cut perhaps a little more care free than perhaps the way I or any one else might prepare them in more of a serious, military operation, but not to take away from the importance of having such a wonderful meal put in-front of us on a Sunday and how 3 courses was a luxury that would not just feed everyone but as importantly, bring all the family together.
Now obviously, I was not going to be that easygoing, I mean we did also have chicken, beef, pork at times, but I would restrict myself to only eating “white” meat, and for some reason would only eat certain vegetables, which meant that the Sunday broth was turned into a “consommé” by putting it through a sieve. I myself don’t understand why this occurred. I guess with my ever changing eating habits with certain foods, which would eventually get worse, I can only put it down as some kind of learning process for me, causing hardship and perhaps worry for others, would years later turn the food table for me and learn to enjoy any meal that is put in front of me. I would though, like to know if that said “consommé “ even with the vegetables intact, would still be as delicious with the addition of milk to bring the soup down to an edible temperature for any child, now there’s a thought.