Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cockaleeky Soup







     A Traditional Scottish Soup To Warm Up A Chilly Day!
     Cockaleeky Soup is recognized one of Scotland's national recipe's.  I used to sell Cockaleeky as a soup du jour on occasion when I was the chef at an English Pub for two years.  I first learned the recipe while reading a very old British Isle cuisine history book that was published in the early 1900's.  
     In the book was reprint of an old original Cockaleeky Soup recipe that was written descriptive style, with no measurements.  The language used phrases that seemed to be from much earlier than the year 1800.  The soup recipe was simple yet specific and it sounded like it would suit the fancy of customers at the pub.     
     According to the descriptive recipe, the origins of this soup lie in good old fashioned Scottish country farm cooking.  The age old recipe stated something like, "There is not much more to do with a scrawny rooster or a scrawny hen, than to boil it till it is tender and make soup out of the tough bird.  When the meat starts falling off of the bones, the broth is guaranteed to be rich and satisfying.  Adding a generous amount of leeks is all that needs to be done to make Cockaleeky Soup."  This is basically all that there was to the oldest Cockaleeky recipe that I have ever seen. 

     The old original recipe was simple.  I selected the scrawniest chicken in the crate and whipped up a 3 gallon batch of Cockaleeky Soup.  The owner of the pub asked what the name of the soup was, so I mentioned that he he would get a kick out of the name.  The pub owner's response was, "Cockaleeky?"  Then he started laughing, because he never heard of this soup before.  As one can imagine, the name of this soup could easily be misconstrued, if a vulgar context was applied by a drunken beer drinker at the pub.  Apparently that thought crossed the pub owner's mind.  His verbal response to Cockaleeky Soup was, "Brilliant!"   

     The pub customers got a kick out of the name of this soup too.  Before long and after a few pints, nobody was shy about saying Cockaleeky out loud.  In fact the name of this simple soup certainly was a selling point.  The old fashioned antique version of Cockaleeky Soup soon was a customer favorite.

     From what I can gather, word does not always travel far in the British Isles.  The English Pub had plenty of English, Australian and Irish customers, but none of them had ever heard of Cockaleeky Soup.  The pub had relatively few Scottish customers for some odd reason, so it was difficult to get any feedback concerning the authenticity or information about later variations of Cockaleeky Soup.  
     When pub patrons asked for the recipe, I basically just described the soup like the original recipe was written.  Customers liked the recipe because it was so simple, yet the end result was delicious beyond belief.  

     It has been a couple of decades since I have made Cockaleeky Soup, but the original recipe was easy to remember.  I decided to do a little research on the Cockaleeky recipe and I found that later variations of the recipe were a little bit more complex.  
     Apparently at sometime in the late 1800's, Cockaleeky Soup became known for its restorative qualities.  Prunes were added to the soup to boost the nutritional value and to sweeten the broth.  Barley was added to the soup to make it more hearty for chilly days.  Potato was sometimes added for the same reason.  So, the original farm style soup made with a scrawny cock and leeks evolved into a restorative soup that had seasonal variations.    
     The simplicity of rustic utilitarian Medieval potage cookery is the aspect of the original Cockaleeky that is so appealing.  There are no fancy cooking techniques involved.  Anybody that can boil water can make a batch of Cockaleeky Soup.  

     It is nearly impossible to find a scrawny hen or scrawny rooster for sale at a modern common grocery store.  Selecting the smallest chicken, a game hen or a few chicken legs is the best option.  
     Asian food markets in Las Vegas do stock frozen roosters and scrawny old hens for broth making.  If experiencing the true Medieval origins of Cockaleeky Soup is a high priority, then hunting for a scrawny old bird at an Asian food market is the way to go.  

     Chicken Meat and Broth Preparation:
     Chicken legs, game hen or a small chicken can be used to make this recipe.  Any excess broth or chicken meat can be used to make more Cockaleeky Soup or other recipes, like pot pie.  
     Step 1:  Place 6 to 8 chicken legs, or 1 small chicken in a pot.
     Cover the chicken with 3" to 4" of extra water.  (About 1/2 gallon total.)  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the broth is rich and the meat is tender enough to fall off of the bones.   Skim the grease off of the broth as it simmers. 
     Step 3:  Pour the broth through a large strainer into a second pot.  
     Set the broth aside.
     Step 4:  Set the chicken pieces aside to cool.
     Remove and discard the skin, cartilage and bones.
     Hand pull the chicken meat into bite size pieces and set them aside.  

     Cockaleeky Soup:  
     This recipe yields 2 large bowls of soup.  (About 4 1/2 cups)
     This soup definitely has medicinal value and it will help to ward off the common cold!
     This soup actually is a potage recipe, so the proportion of meats and vegetables should be relatively high in each bowl when served.  
     Step 1:  Place 5 cups of the reserved chicken broth in a large sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of leek that is cut into short strips that are about 1/4" wide.  (The green part of the leek can be used in this recipe too.)  
     Add 1 1/2 cups of the prepared chicken meat.
     Add 1/4 cup of dried pearled barley.  
     Add 1/3 cup of diced potato.  (optional)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Bring the ingredients to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer the soup till the pearled barley becomes tender.  Allow the broth to reduce till it covers the ingredients in the soup with only about 3/4" of extra broth.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat. 
     Add 4 to 5 pitted prunes that are cut in half.
     Gently simmer till the prunes become tender.  (About 4 minutes.)
     Step 4:  Remove the bay leaf.  
     Ladle the soup into a soup terrine or divide the soup into two large soup bowls.  
     No garnish is necessary!

     A steaming hot hearty bowl of Cockaleeky Soup sure does hit the spot when the weather is cold!

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