Ingredients, but cut, gut and feather the cock first, by George.

Ingredients, but cut, gut and feather the cock first, by George.

Burns Night is coming up and no one is a more rabid Scot wannabe than me, at least on Jan. 25. I pull out the 80 year old Ambassador Scotch and make Scottish dishes for the dinner. According to ritual, at the beginning of the dinner, Cock-A- leekie Soup is served. There are other dishes with comical names which hide things we eat a lot like clapshot ( mashed potatoes and turnips with chives) , rumbledethumps (potatoes and cabbage), roastit bubbly-jock (roasted turkey) but I have a thing for this soup.
The soup with oaten dumplings

The soup with oaten dumplings

While it is called “Scotland’s National Soup,”the history of the soup goes back to France according to the sources I’ve read.That makes some sense when you think of the historic close ties between the two country with ‘The Auld Alliance’ . It probably originated as a chicken and onion soup in France.The chicken used must have been the ones that quit laying eggs, old and tough and ready for the pot. By the 16th century, it had made its way to Scotland, where the onions were replaced with leeks, which I understand grow big as skyscrapers and it didn’t matter the sex of the chicken. The first recipe was printed in 1598, though the name “cock-a-leekie” did not come into use until the 18th century.

I’ve read many recipes , giving a myriad of ways to make it but the one I like best is AULD REEKIE. Both it and the traditional soup recipes come from a site called TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH RECIPES, one well worth looking at for all food Scottish. http://www.rampantscotland.com/recipes/blrecipe_index.htm

According to the editor, AULD REEKY wasn’t named because the soup smells, which it does deliciously, but because this recipe originated in Edinburgh which was called that during the days of coal fires.

The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:
3lb boiling chicken (giblets removed)
3 slices of streaky bacon
1lb shin of beef
2 lb leeks
1 large onion
5 fluid ounces Scotch whisky
4 pints water
1 level tablespoon dried tarragon
Salt and pepper
8 pre-soaked prunes (optional but traditional!)

Method:
Mix the whisky, tarragon and sugar in the water. Chop up the bacon and place the chicken, bacon and beef in a large bowl and pour over the whisky marinade. Leave to soak overnight. Place the chicken etc in a large soup pot. Chop up the leeks (reserve one) and onion and add to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for two hours, removing any scum as required. Remove the chicken from the pot, remove skin and bones. Chop the meat into small pieces and return to the pot. Cut up the shin of beef, if required. Add the prunes and the last chopped leek and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. It will serve up to eight people. I found you can double and even triple it as I’ve done and it’s still delicious.

AULD REEKIE

AULD REEKIE

The other recipe for cock-a-leekie soup which is a bit tamer as it is pre-whiskey is:

Ingredients:
1 boiling fowl, about 4lb, including legs and wings
1lb leeks (about 12) cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 pints stock or water
1oz long grained rice
4oz cooked, stoned prunes
One teaspoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Garni of bay leaf, parsley, thyme
Some recipes also have 3 chopped rashers of streaky bacon (yes to this; I like it with the subtle taste of bacon, except I fried it first and browned the chicken and leeks in the bits)

Method:
Put the fowl and bacon in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum. Add three-quarters of the leeks, (green as well as white sections), herbs (tied together in a bundle), salt and pepper and return to the boil. Simmer gently for 2-3 hours, adding more water if necessary.

Remove the bird. Some thrifty chefs use the bird as another course, others cut the meat into small pieces and add them back to the soup (certainly it should have some pieces of chicken in it when served). Add the rice and drained prunes and the remaining leeks and simmer for another 30 minutes. Check for flavour and serve with a little chopped parsley.

Serves 6/8 people.

Either way, it’s a winner! auld-lang-syne-postcard-15

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