Saturday, 13 March 2010

Cock-a-leekie (chicken and leek) soup

Cock-a-leekie soup is a British classic and originates from Scotland. Mentioned as early as the 16th century, it is often served at Robert Burns night supper and is a warming staple in winter. Prunes are traditionally used in the preparation, although some people choose to omit it. Cock-a-leekie soup is usually served as a clear broth (great for recovering from colds!) or can also be thickened with rice, barley or potatoes.

Cock-a-leekie soup

A whole chicken or bone-in pieces are used to make the stock, with the meat later stripped and added to the soup. You can remove the skin to reduce fat. Another option is to use prepared chicken stock and add leftover cooked chicken, which will reduce the cooking time.

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

3-4 chicken pieces, about 1kg or 2 lb (e.g. legs, backs)
3-4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
2 liters or 8.5 cups water
2 carrots, diced (optional)
4 cooked prunes, without pits (optional)
Bouquet garni (of 1 bay leaf and a few stalks of parsley and thyme)
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place the chicken pieces, 3/4 of the chopped leeks (use only the white and a little of the green part) and bouquet garni in a large pot. Add water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 2 hours until the chicken is falling off the bone, skimming off fat that floats to the top. Remove the bouquet garni and chicken and set aside.

2. Add the diced carrot and the remainder of the chopped leeks and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes.

3. When the chicken has cooled sufficiently, remove the meat and add to the soup towards the end of cooking. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve.

* The bouquet garni (French for "garnished bouquet") is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string. It is boiled with other ingredients when making soups, stock and stews and removed before serving. You can also just place the bay leaf, parsley and thyme loose in the stock, although it is more difficult to fish them out later.

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