Recipes from Scotland 1680s to 1940s


Barley water

As well as an ingredient in brewing, broths and stews, barley has a long history as a strengthening drink for invalids, a food for infants and a medicine.

Fife army wife Sarah Reddie was living in India in 1847 when she started her recipe book.

Pearl barley, as used in her barley water recipe, has the bran removed. It is more easily digested than unprocessed barley and suitable for the young and delicate.

Sarah's barley water, flavoured with oranges and lemons, appears in her recipe book alongside 'Baby's Pap' and 'Baby's Barley' and was probably intended for her children.

Barley water is still found in recipe books today and is sold commercially. As well as being a refreshing soft drink, this boiled barley beverage is considered a health food.

'Lemon-peel and sugar may be added, or … sliced liquorice-root, and three or four figs. With lemon-juice it is less cloying, and more grateful to the sick.'
Meg Dod's 'The cook and housewife's manual', Edinburgh, 1826. [Library reference: NG.833.b.4]

Handwritten recipe

Sarah Reddie's recipe for 'Barley Water'

Sarah Reddie's recipe book, 1847. [Library reference: MS.5065]