My family cookbook tells the story of my family for a few generations, but I am going to start with the one who informed so much of my life - my Nan.
Olive Little was born on the 14th September 1938, in the front bedroom of a farmhouse in Dudley. Our family have been farmers of some kind for generations, and the move to Coventry when my Nan was six months old began its chapter as dairy farmers. The family moved to a small farm on a hill that overlooked the town, they lived a truly self-sufficient life where nothing was wasted.
Frugality was essential to a rural life in the mid-twentieth century, and my great grandmother (Nanny Little to anyone who asked) was its personification; if clothes tore, they were attacked with the sewing kit. If they were beyond fixing, they were sold to the rag and bone man.
Nanny Little’s word was law when it came to saving money, and my Nan enforced it in her own house once she was married. It was in the kitchen that the regime of saving was most strict. Every day, after dinner, as much of the day’s leftovers as was suitable found itself thrown into a pot, and every few days Nanny Little would make broth.
Every Wednesday, my Nan would pick me u from school whilst mum went to her second job. We would throw the leftovers of Sundays roast into a pan with everything else we had and we would sit and watch cartoons until the broth we made was ready.
My Nan’s broth was a very ad-hoc affair and ale best ones should be, but my great-aunt recorded this recipe as a good base to improve on. This recipe is a great way to keep warm, fill yourself up and utilise your leftovers in a delicious way that saves you money.
As many leftover meat bones as possible or 4 pints beef stock
6 pints water (if making your own stock)
1 ham hock or 450 g leftover meat
125g pearl barley
2 onions, diced
1 leek, sliced
1 celery stick, diced
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
Note: if using leftovers skip stages 1 and 6
Preheat oven to 1800c/gas 4.
If making your own stock, place all you animal bones into a large pan. Fill with water until the bones are just covered, and boil over a low heat for 40-60 minutes until you have a thick brown stock.
Remove the bones from the pot, and add the lamb shank. If using pre-made stock, add the stock and meat at the same time.
Cook for a further hour with the lid off.
Turn the hob down to Its lowest temperature.
If using ham shank, remove from the pan, score the fat with a sharp knife and roast for one hour in the oven.
Add to the stock the vegetables and pearl barley. Cook slowly, skimming as necessary.
Remove the shank from the oven and leave to cool. When cool, remove the fat and break up the meat with a fork, reintroduce to the stock and allow to simmer for ten minutes to allow flavours to combine them, top up with water if necessary.
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