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Cock-a-leekie Soup

Cock-a-leekie soup is a Scottish soup dish of leeks and chicken stock, often thickened with rice, or sometimes barley. The original recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes. Anne Mulhern of Glasgow’s Willow Tearooms suggests that the reason for the addition of prunes dates back to times when only boiling fowls were available and prunes were added to increase the nutritional value of the broth.

While it is called “Scotland’s National Soup,” it probably originated as a chicken and onion soup in France. By the 16th century, it had made its way to Scotland, where the onions were replaced with leeks. The first recipe was printed in 1598, though the name “cock-a-leekie” did not come into use until the 18th century.

Cock-a-leekie Soup
Cock-a-leekie soup is a Scottish soup dish of leeks and chicken stock, often thickened with rice, or sometimes barley. The original recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes.
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken, well rinsed
  • 250 g bacon, rindless, chopped
  • 3 sprigs thyme, fresh
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 leeks, thickly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, optional
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken, bacon, thyme and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Completely cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently with the pan half-covered for 1 hour, until the chicken is tender. If necessary, skim the surface to remove foam.
  2. Remove the chicken from the saucepan. Remove meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Take out bay leaves and stems of thyme. Refrigerate liquid until cold, then remove layer of fat from the surface. Shred the chicken meat.
  3. When ready to serve, heat the stock in a saucepan, add the leeks and shredded chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the prunes before serving, if desired.
Notes
Adding prunes may seem unusual but this traditional addition makes a great sweet-and-sour combination.

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