Red lentil soup, with or without barley, is classic Scottish comfort food in a bowl. Perfect for cold weather days, and some fresh, crusty bread is highly recommended!
During our trip to Scotland last year, we went to Helensburgh to visit Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House. This jaunt was the reason for my quest to make this red lentil soup! Our entry was free as part of the reciprocal agreement with the National Trust and our Royal Oak Foundation membership. I highly recommend buying a Royal Oak membership if you are traveling from the US to the UK and plan to do some sightseeing.
The Hill House
As memorable as the visit to the Hill House was, our experience at the tiny, (almost hidden) and authentically Scottish Craigard Tearoom, was also memorable, mostly because of the red lentil soup there.
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We decided to have lunch in Helensburgh before venturing up to the Mackintosh beauty of Hill House, but had no idea what was in town. We walked down a single street, poking our noses up to a couple of restaurants, but nothing piqued my family’s interest. That is, until I spied a small, brown awning across the street.
The pastries in the window were more than enough to convince my daughter and I that we’d found our destination for lunch. However, after perusing the menu at the front, my son and husband also were sold.
You may also enjoy with this lovely Leek and Potato Soup recipe
In recent years, many pubs, restaurants and tearooms across Scotland have been infiltrated by the American style menu: nachos, beef burgers (hamburgers), hot wings, etc. As a native Scot, it really ires me to fly over 5000 miles, get in a car, then drive another maybe 40+ miles to go to a little cottage pub in the country, only to be greeted with American fare on the menu.
Although the Craigard Tearoom does have chili nachos on their menu, 90% of their menu is authentically Scottish–what a joy! Cullen skink is another delicious soup option (traditional Scottish smoked haddock chowder).
Not only is the food Scottish, it’s tasty, and the tearoom is just adorable with different tartans adorning the walls and the waitresses wearing Scottish style aprons. How can anyone not love this place? (No, I wasn’t paid to write this!)
Is Red Lentil Soup Good for You?
Absolutely yes, red lentils provide lots of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. They are perfect for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan diets.
What Color Lentils are Best for Soup?
The color of lentils you use for soup and which are best is a personal choice, however, red lentils do not require pre-soaking (although I do, as I feel they are more clean afterwards). Red lentils dissolve without blending if you like a smoother soup. Other lentils hold their shape, so this brown lentil soup, as an example, doesn’t end up like a purée.
My daughter’s discovery
My husband, son and I ordered the Scottish breakfast which included black pudding, and my daughter asked for the lentil soup and bread. When her soup arrived, she immediately looked at me with concern. It didn’t resemble “our” lentil soup, was what “the look” told me. I had forgotten to tell her that the soup would probably be made with red lentils, not brown or green.
However, after her first spoonful, her face lit up! She loved the Scottish red lentil soup, and although looking a bit too “healthy” for her tastes, the country style bread also received five stars on her taste bud test. My daughter still talks about that soup and bread. Craigard Tearoom’s soup didn’t have barley, but I love it, so sometimes I add it. Additionally, if you want a gluten free version of this soup, just omit the barley.
Traditional Scotch Broth Recipe
You probably won’t be visiting the Craigard Tearoom anytime soon (unless you’re in Scotland), but you can make a delicious pot of this red lentil soup which is very similar to the one they serve. Since my daughter fell in love with the Scottish red lentil soup, I attempted to recreate it after scouring the internet for recipes (and not finding anything I liked) and from my memory of how the soup tasted.
It’s too bad I can’t recreate a Scottish tearoom atmosphere in my house.
Scottish Red Lentil Soup (with or without barley)
Recipe by Christina Conte inspired by Craigard Tea Room serves 6
FULL PRINTABLE RECIPE BELOW
- red lentils
- water or beef stock
- beef or ham bone (optional)
- pearl barley (optional)
- olive oil
- rutabaga (in US) or swede/turnip (in UK)
- sea salt
- beef bouillon (optional)
- black pepper
Directions for Scottish Red Lentil Soup
Place the red lentils in a bowl and cover with about an inch of water; set aside.
Put the measured water and bone in a large pot (I use a Dutch oven) with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil (skim off any scum that rises to the top) then let simmer. Alternatively, start with a pot of beef stock.
WITH BARLEY (Skip this step you don’t want barley) In a small pot, add the barley and cover with half an inch of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Drain the barley and add to the large pot with the bone (make sure to remove scum first.)
In a medium frying pan, sauté the onion, carrots, celery and turnip/rutabaga in the olive oil for about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Next, add the drained red lentils.
The sautéed vegetables go in next, and another teaspoon of salt; stir well.
Simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally, until cooked.
When ready, remove the bone, taste for salt, adding more if necessary (or beef bouillon if using) and freshly ground black pepper.
Ladle into bowls.
Serve the Scottish red lentil soup piping hot, with some hearty bread!
It’s nutritious, as well as delicious!
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- 1 1/3 cups (9 oz) red lentils, rinsed
- 8-10 cups (about 2 liters) of water or beef stock (less water/stock for a thicker soup)
- (beef bone, optional if using beef or vegetable stock)
- 1/3 cup (2 oz) pearl barley, rinsed (optional; omit for gluten free diet)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 celery stalk, with leaves, sliced
- 1 small rutabaga (in US) or swede/turnip (in UK), diced into small cubes
- 1 tsp sea salt (depending on if you use water or stock)
- (beef bouillon may also be added)
- black pepper, freshly ground
- Place the red lentils in a bowl and cover with about an inch of water; set aside.
- Put the measured water and bone in a large soup pot, or Dutch oven, with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil (skim off any scum that rises to the top) then let simmer. Alternatively, start with a pot of beef stock.
- WITH BARLEY (Skip this step you don't want barley) In a small pot, add the barley and cover with half an inch of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Drain the barley and add to the large pot with the bone (make sure to remove scum first.)
- In a medium frying pan, sauté the onion, carrots, celery and turnip/rutabaga in the olive oil for about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the drained red lentils and the sautéed vegetables, and another teaspoon of salt; stir well and let simmer for about half an hour, or until cooked.
- When ready, remove the bone, taste for salt, adding more if necessary (or beef boullion if using) and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve hot with some hearty bread!
Nutrition information is based on the soup INCLUDING barley
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 340Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 506mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 6g
Nutrition information is only estimated.
Another red lentil recipe from my friend Janette, from Culinary Ginger: Indian Dal.
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