We had that gross summer cold that was going around. It was…gross. And weirdly seasonally inappropriate. Luckily, since we live in Ohio, before we were done having that cold the weather had turned to chilly, delicious soup weather. And then it turned back. Go figure. One of my high school friends used to say, “If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, wait a minute…” Anyway this soup was perfect for the weather and for our colds.
E has discovered leeks. She made such a big deal about this soup that I bought two more big bunches of leeks this weekend at the market so I could make more.
My favorite thing about this recipe is how simple it is…from what I understand about Scottish cooking, the focus is on getting good quality ingredients and preparing them in simple ways to really allow the food to shine. Many of the recipes have considerably fewer ingredients than I would have expected.
Cock-A-Leekie (Cocky-Leekie) Soup
Good chicken stock (put a chicken carcass and livers and hearts if you have them on the stove covered with water in the pot by an inch or so, bring them to a boil, reduce heat and let the whole thing simmer for several hours. If you are starting with a whole chicken, maybe cook it in the crock pot overnight, pull off the meat, and then stick the carcass back in the crockpot covered with water to make your stock-then you only use a bit of the chicken for the soup and reserve the rest for something else. In our house, if we are choosing to eat animals, we try to do so in the way that is most respectful and least wasteful. This includes using the whole bird and making stock from the bones at least once).
One bunch of leeks (about 8-10 medium)
bits of chicken
allspice (Scots Kitchen called this “Jamaica pepper”), if you like.
pepper, if you like
prunes, if using–I didn’t, because I wanted to be a good christian. ;-)*
Cut leeks in pieces about a half to three quarters of an inch or so wide. Put in a bowl, cover with water, and let stand for a few minutes. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Agitate a bit to remove the last of the dirt. Put half the leeks in a big soup pot with the bits of chicken, the salt and pepper or allspice, and the strained stock. Let simmer for an hour or so. Add the rest of the leeks, simmer for another half hour, until the leeks are tender. A few minutes before serving, you can add the prunes if you are using them.*
*Amusing anecdotes from The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill:
“Shepherd: Speakin’ o’ cocky-leekie, the man was an atheist that first polluted it with prunes.
North: At least no Christian. –Christopher North: Noctes Ambrosianae
“The leek is one of the most honourable and ancient of pot-herbs…The leek is the badge of a high-spirited, honourable and fiery nation-the Ancient Britons. In the old poetry of the northern nations, where a young man would now be styled the flower, he was called “the leek of his family, or tribe,” an epithet of most savoury meaning.”- Ibid.
“The soup must be very thick of leeks, and the first part of them must be boiled down into the soup until it become a lubricous compound”- Meg Dods.