Cock a Leekie Soup: Hamely Fare for Burns Night

By Graeme Taylor •


It's Burns Night on 25th January. Graeme from Scots Larder, shares one of his favourite recipes for a "hamely" or homely dish for the evening: Cock-a-leekie soup. 

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"Though on hamely fare we dine"

Robert Burns, though known the world o’er as Scotland’s national poet was born into a poor farming family in Ayrshire rather than the Georgian gentry. Using his wit and intelligence he found himself at many a wealthy table eating the finest of foods. However, as his poetry suggests he preferred and identified with the ‘homely’ fare of the peasant, referring to it in rhyme and song and even elevating the humble haggis, a thrifty peasant pudding to legendary status simply by writing an ode. Many would say more tongue in cheek than reverentially.

Therefore with that in mind it is appropriate that at a Burns supper we would traditionally sit down to a meal with Cock-a-leekie soup to start, followed by the famous pudding, washed down with (though never poured over) a tipple of Burns spirit of choice.

Like with so many traditional Scottish dishes there are countless recipes for Cock-a-leekie. Some would make with a whole chicken, however for me it is a perfect thrifty cooks dish for either a leftover chicken carcass that still has a bit of meat attached, or a few legs salvaged from the more expensive breast meat.

Whichever you choose, a high bone to flesh ratio gives a great rich stock to this warming soup. Definitely hamely fare with the traditional prunes giving a sweetness and rich colour.

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Serves 4

3 whole chicken legs or 6 drumsticks

700ml-1 litre water

1 onion chopped

2 leeks sliced

2 carrots chopped

12 prunes chopped

2 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Method

At 200C roast the chicken pieces for around 30 minutes then place in a heavy bottomed pot along with any juices which have come out.

Pour over the water until the chicken is covered.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour to give a stock.

Add in the vegetables, prunes, herbs, a good grinding of pepper and half a teaspoon of salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, around 20 minutes.

Remove the chicken, take the meat from the bones and stir back into soup.

Discard the bones and the herbs, check for seasoning and serve.

For more inspiring recipes for Burns Night visit Great British Chefs collection.

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Graeme Taylor

Graeme is fuelled by an intense passion for the rich and varied food and drink landscape of Scotland. With A Scots Larder he explores the fabulous natural larder that Scotland possesses, brings heritage recipes to life with a view of history and a contemporary feel. He also charts the cosmopolitan nature of Scottish cuisine by highlighting the impact historical invaders and modern day immigration has had on the eclectic nature of the Scottish food landscape.

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