Recipe: Slow Cooker Northumbrian Broth

Broth 12.10.09A hearty, warming bowl of broth to keep the chills away and fill your stomach!

Northumbrian broth differs from its Scottish cousin – Scotch broth usually contains barley and mutton, whereas Northumbrian broth has no barley and has ham instead (or at least it does in my family). My Grom, Mam and Sister all make theirs in a pressure cooker, but I a) don’t own one and b) once made some in one and it was a disaster, so I make mine in a slow cooker instead, which takes longer in the cooking, but means I can disappear and leave it simmering away while I get on with other things instead!

My recipe doesn’t really call for exact measurements (I judge by eye), but here’s a rough guesstimate at what goes into the pot. The result is a thick, hearty soup that warms you up on cold days. To me, this broth smells of October – Mam always seemed to make it around Halloween when we were kids and as a result I always start hankering after it around now. Incidentally, Xander LOVES this stuff!

Slow Cooker Northumbrian Broth
Serves: 6 – 8
Prep time: 15-45 minutes
Cooking time: 5+ hours

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

* the old recipes call for a ham bone, but they’re difficult to come by these days!

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
  8. Leave for a minimum of 5 hours (I put it on at about 10am and leave it on till dinner time!)
  9. Serve hot with loads of crusty bread

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. This recipe literally fills my slow cooker so I have enough for lunches for a few days AND a few servings to pop in the freezer.

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


7 responses to “Recipe: Slow Cooker Northumbrian Broth

  1. I come from blyth most people believe northumberland hasnt any recipes of their own yet I know we do and we also need to keep them alive

  2. We most certainly do – and this is one of my favourites. 🙂

    My Mam and Step-Dad live in Blyth, so I’m occasionaly in that town. We’re from Ashington originally, though. 🙂

  3. well thats funny we’re from ashington too. what other recipes do you know of

  4. What a small world! It’s the only overtly Northumbrian recipe I have, I’m afraid. I shall have to ask my Mam and Grom if they know of any more they can pass on to me to try though…

  5. my grandma always put pearl barley in and had a giant fluffy dumpling on the top!

    saveloy dips, pan haggerty, breakfast with kippers, taty pot, there’s loads 🙂

  6. quick question and hope I don’t appear stupid lol but do you cook the ham first before you put it in, or put it in slow cooker raw? Please help thanks