Beef shin & barley broth with treacle farls

by Paula McIntyre

A culinary defibrillator from Paula McIntyre

I was brought up on this broth. You’d be playing in the snow in a skirt and some wee socks, and there was probably a leak in your shoe, and you’d come home with hypothermia. This soup probably saved my life—it was like a culinary defibrillator.


For the broth:   
750g bone-in shin of beef
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
100g pearl barley, soaked for 2 hours
2 sticks of celery, chopped (plus a handful of the dark leaves)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small leek, washed and chopped
A handful of chopped parsley

For the whipped butter and buttermilk:
500ml double cream
Whole milk
1 tsp cider vinegar
4 spring onions, finely chopped

For the farls:
225g plain flour
1½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
100g wholemeal flour
25g porridge oats
1 tbsp treacle
325ml buttermilk


Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan until smoking hot. Season the beef shin with sea salt and seal on both sides for 2 mins. Add the onions and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 mins. Drain the barley and add to the pan. Simmer for 45 mins, then add the chopped celery sticks and carrot. Cook for 30 mins, then add the leek and cook for 20 mins.

Remove the beef. Let it rest for 10 mins, then shred with a fork and add it back to the broth. Add more water if required. Finely chop the leaves of the celery and add to the broth with the parsley. Check the seasoning.

To make the butter, place the cream in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and whisk with an electric beater until the mixture forms thick yellow curd—as you do so, try to cover the bowl with a tea towel, as it splashes a bit when the butter separates from the liquid (the buttermilk). When the mixture has formed a good clump of butter, lift it from the buttermilk and place in a sieve over a bowl.

Poor the buttermilk into a measuring jug, together with any drained liquid from the butter, then add enough whole milk to bring it up to 325ml. Add the cider vinegar and stir well.

Place the drained butter in a bowl and whisk until pale. Add the spring onions and whisk for a further 1 min.

To make the farls, mix the plain flour, baking soda, salt, wholemeal flour and oats in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the treacle with the buttermilk and pour into the well. Mix to a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead gently into a ball. Flatten to a 2cm-thick round and cut into four farls. Leave for 10 mins. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the farls to the pan with a gap between them. Cook for 4 mins each side then stack on their sides to cook through. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Split the farls in half, spread over the butter and serve alongside the broth.

Recipe: Paula McIntyre
Image: Kim Lightbody