Recipe: Northumbrian Broth

Northumbrian broth and Scotch broth are entirely different: Scotch broth is generally made using mutton and barley along with various vegetable (which are usually diced), whereas Northumbrian broth omits the barley (horrid slimy stuff in my opinion!), and uses a ham or bacon base along with vegetables that are grated (so that they melt away) and a load of split peas and lentils. Scotch broth generally has quite a watery base, whereas Northumbrian broth is initially so thick you can literally stand a spoon upright in it (don’t worry, you can add a little more water to get whatever consistency you prefer).

Anyway, as summer eases into autumn, I always get a hankering for a good old bowl of thick, hearty broth with a chunk of crusty bread, and by Halloween, it becomes a regular on the menu.

You can make it in a giant pot, or a pressure cooker, but I make mine in the slow cooker – I usually stick it on low last thing at night before I go to bed, and it’s ready for lunchtime next day. Or I pop it on high first thing in the morning for it to be ready for lunch the same day. I don’t generally weigh any of my ingredients and instead tend to judge by eye, but I’ve yet to have it turn out anything but delicious, but in case any of you would like to try it, here’s a rough estimate of my own recipe.

F = Free food (eat as much as you like)
S = Speed food (these should make up at least a third of your meal)
P = Protein free food (eat as much of these as you like!)
HEa = Healthy Extra A (a daily allowance of dairy produce)
HEb = Healthy Extra B (a daily allowance of a product with fibre)
# = a number denotes roughly how many syns are in foods used

One of my favourite soups – so hearty it can be a whole meal on its own!


Serves: 6 – 8
Prep time: 15-45 minutes
Cooking time: 5+ hours


  • 200g split red lentils (P)
  • 200g split yellow peas (P)
  • 1/2 large swede (S)
  • 5 large carrots (S)
  • 1 large leek (S)
  • 1/4lb ham OR 4 slices smoked bacon* (P)
  • 2-4 ham stock cubes (depending on personal tastes) (F)
  • Enough water to cover all ingredients (F)

* the old recipes call for a ham bone, but they’re difficult to come by these days! Cut all visible fat off first!

You can make a vegetarian version by omitting the meat and using vegetable stock cubes (my sister does this and it’s still very tasty!)


  1. Grate the carrots and swede (if you have a food processor with a grate attachment, this will be very quick and easy; if not, I’m afraid you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way like me, but the results are worth it, I promise!)
  2. Slice the leek
  3. Finely dice the ham or bacon (if you’re using bacon, lightly dry fry it)
  4. Put the veg, meat, split yellow peas and lentils in the slow cooker and mix them up
  5. Add enough water to just cover all ingredients
  6. Crumble in the stock cubes (I use four because I like a good, strong flavour, but if you like it a little more subtle, use fewer stock cubes) and stir into mixture
  7. Put the lid on the slow cooker and set to medium and leave for a minimum of 5 hours **

** If you want to cook it overnight, pop it on low last thing at night before you go to bed, and it will be ready for lunch. Similarly, if you switch it on high first thing in the morning, it should still be ready for lunch, or you can pop it on low before you leave for work in the morning and it will be ready for dinner.

You want the split yellow peas and lentils to go really quite mushy, hence the long cooking time – this makes the soup lovely and thick. Second-day broth is even better than freshly made (and will keep for several days in the fridge) and it also freezes very well. I literally fill my slow cooker so I have enough for lunches for a few days AND a few servings to pop in the freezer.

It’s entirely SYN-FREE and would also be great if you’re doing EESP, as it’s all speed and protein food.

If you try this recipe, please do let me know how it turned out for you and whether or not you enjoyed it.


7 thoughts on “Recipe: Northumbrian Broth

  1. Hi Kelly I am about to try this receipe tonight but haven’t any ham but have got braising steak could this be used in place and have you tried it with braising steak


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