The 25th of January marks the 252nd anniversary of the birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. He wrote many poems that we are very familiar with today such as Auld Lang Syne and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. Every year I try to do something to celebrate but it usually just amounts to a glass of wine and a nod in his direction. The last time I had a big do was 2003, several months before my son was born. I ordered haggis and invited some friends over, including one who played the bag pipes. We piped in the haggis (a little parade from the kitchen, through the dining room, into the living room and back again) and I believe it was I who read the Address to a Haggis before digging in. I still have fond memories of that evening.
So fond, in fact, I managed to round up another group of friends…of mainly Scottish heritage…to join me for another dinner tonight. We’ve got a proud selection of Wallace, Anderson, Montieth, and McDonald. I also have a whopping four pound haggis…they must have had a heck of a time wrestling it to the ground. We’re lacking a piper but I’m sure an extra sip of fine Glenfiddich will fix that (what else can we do?). Along with the haggis we’ll have neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and a delicious cock-a-leekie soup (chicken/leek soup) as a starter.
Cock-a-leekie soup is a lovely soup for eating in the winter. The combination of chicken and leeks is very tasty as well as healthy and comforting. So I dug out my old Scottish cookbook aptly named The Highlanders Cookbook: Recipes from Scotland and thought I would write the original recipe here for you.
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1 plump old cock (or fowl) and giblets (love this: I would suggest getting chicken rather than rooster though)
2 quarts of water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of parsley
Salt and Pepper
8 leeks, sliced
2 tablespoons rice (optional)
1 dozen whole prunes (optional – I’ve never tasted it with prunes)
Clean and truss fowl. Clean giblets. Place in a large pot with water, bay leaf, parsley, salt and pepper, and two of the leeks. Simmer one hour. Skim off the fat, remove the fowl and giblets, and strain the soup. Add the remaining leeks.
Many cooks like the addition of rice although it is not strictly traditional. The addition of whole prunes is traditional, but not everyone likes them.
Simmer gently until leeks (and rice or prunes, if used) are tender, perhaps a half hour. A little of the breast meat of the fowl may be minced and added to the soup. Serves 6.
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Scots Wha Hae – Scocha
Slainte! (To your health)