Cock-A-Leekie

This is one of our most ancient dishes, similar in many respects to Hindle Wakes but served hot and with the broth playing an important part, more a substantial stew than a soup. The name is Scottish, though the dish has similarities with pot au feu and a New England boiled dinner. All would once have been made with a tough old farmyard cock or a boiling fowl, but a free-range chicken will cook in a fraction of the time and deliver an excellent result. Although the dish can be cooked in water, a better result is achieved using chicken stock.

Ingredients

  • 1 boiling fowl or free-range
  • chicken, about 1.5 kg/ lb
  • about 2.75 litres/ 5 pints chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, whole and unpeeled
  • 450 g/ 1 lb stoned prunes
  • salt and pepper
  • 550 g/ lb leeks, cut into 2.5-cm / 1-inch pieces

Method

In a large pot, cover the bird with chicken stock and bring to the boil. Skim, add a bay leaf and the whole onion and lower the heat to simmer.

After 30 minutes, add the stoned prunes and season with salt and pepper. The bird should be cooked after 50–55 minutes. Remove from the broth, but keep the broth warm.

When cool enough to handle, carve off the legs, separating each of them into drumstick and thigh. Remove the breasts whole and carve these into 2 across the grain.

Turn up the heat under the pan and add the leeks. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and return the chicken pieces to the pan just to warm through.

Discard the onion and bay leaf. Adjust the seasoning and serve in warmed soup bowls, dividing the chicken, prunes and leeks equally and with the broth ladled over.