Manx Broth Wedding Custom, Isle of ManIt says much about the poverty that was endemic in the Isle of Man until at least the end of the 19th century, a place of crofters and fishermen, that the traditional dish to be served at Manx country weddings was this hearty but basic broth.
The custom is perhaps a link with the very distant past, as it is traditional to serve the soup in wooden bowls called piggins, and as ‘cutlery’ to employ cleaned mussel shells (sligs). A little imagination and we are back in medieval times.
As so often with traditional dishes there is much disagreement about the authentic recipe, which probably means that there really isn’t one such, but the spirit of the thing is constant. Some sources suggest using shin beef with marrow bone to enrich the stuff; others swear by mutton. The meat is simmered in water until cooked then the liquid used for stock while the beef or mutton is removed for serving separately.
The stock is then used to boil pearl barley until nearly done, at which point diced root vegetables, plus chopped cabbage, kale or whatever is fresh and to hand are added. Soaked split peas would not be inauthentic. A few herbs can enliven the thing – some thyme, or perhaps with mutton a sprig of rosemary or beef a few sage leaves – but it is meant to be filling not subtle – dumplings rather than potatoes an additional way of weighing stomachs down.
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