Friday, March 11, 2016

Cooking from Scotland: Cock-a-Leekie Soup

For a long time now, I've been passively interested in trying to make authentic dishes from the British Isle's, and especially from Scotland.  When I started learning about traditional cooking, I wondered if there were any cookbooks out there that used truly authentic methods in their recipes.  On a whim I searched for one on  One book came up, but wasn't available, and it didn't have a thumbnail either.  I put it on my wishlist and promptly forgot about it.

Well, last month, completely out of the blue it became available, and I ordered it.  I was pleasantly surprised that it does indeed call for soaking oatmeal, as well as lentils and barley.  All the bread recipes however, call for "plain" flour, which I take, is white flour, so no sourdough, or soaked baking recipes.  I couldn't find a copy available on Amazon to link to, so here's a picture of my copy for anyone interested.

The first recipe I choose to make is called "Cock-a-Leekie Soup."  Here is the description from the book: After haggis and shortbread, this is probably the next most recognisably Scottish dish.  It is an extremely old dish which was enjoyed by the kings of Scotland and working folk alike.  The traditional way of making it is to make stock from a whole fresh chicken rather than with leftover chicken bones.  In older times it would have been made with an older boiling fowl, a cockerel at the end of it's life, and the flesh would have been used in another dish.

The ingredients:
A 3 lb chicken, a bay leaf, leeks, water, rice, prunes, salt and pepper.

I've never bought leeks or prunes before, and wasn't sure what to expect.  The chicken was boiled with the bay leaf, and the greens of the leeks, as well as the salt and pepper.  The recipe said that you could remove the greens once the chicken was done if you don't like their slimy texture, so out they came!  As a family, we don't eat a lot of onion, I usually chop it finely for casseroles and spaghetti, or just use minced.  So I was a little wary of how this would taste.  But it turned out that leeks are much milder than onions, and they cooked up nice and soft, so no weird crunch like an onion.  The prunes gave it a delightful hint of sweetness too.  Considering the lack of seasoning in this soup, I was quite surprised by the fullness of flavor, and how filling it was.

The hubs and I enjoyed this immensely!  All 3 hobbit lasses gave it a couple bites and decided it wasn't what they were expecting.  All well, I'll definitely be making this again anyway!
For a little fun, here's a couple UK cooking terms vs US terms.  UK bannock, US flat round cake.  UK digestive biscuits, US Graham crackers.