Tom Kitchin recipes: Cock-a-leekie soup

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Greg Macvean

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Greg Macvean

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‘Soup is the perfect pick-me-up after coming in from the winter cold’, says Tom Kitchin, who has provided a recipe for cock-a-leekie soup this week

IN THE depths of winter, nothing quite satisfies the way a warm, hearty bowl of soup or broth can, either for a simple weekday supper or a wholesome lunch. Winter in Scotland brings with it an abundance of seasonal vegetables and making and enjoying home-made soup is so much more satisfying than buying it.

Making soup is one of the best ways to use up vegetables you have left in your fridge or store cupboard so it scores extra points on saving waste. Plus, if you’ve cooked a roast on a Sunday, a soup or broth is a brilliant way to make the most of any remaining meat to set you up for the week.

The key to a good soup is in the quality of vegetables you use, so make sure you seek out varieties of vegetables that are bang in season. Think root vegetables such as celeriac, leeks, pumpkin, parsnips, artichokes and carrots. In Scotland we have the perfect climate for growing root vegetables and now really is the time to make the most of them. The local farmers’ markets are a great source for picking up a stack of fresh vegetables and many local farms will also make up mixed vegetable boxes, which is a fantastic way to try experimenting with different and sometimes new ingredients.

Whether you’re cooking a broth or a soup, using a good stock as your base is also incredibly important. In the past, stocks tended to be kept on the stove and added to constantly with leftover meat, vegetables or fish. Nowadays, though, they tend to be made fresh when needed, and then maybe frozen for future use. You can make your own, which I would highly recommend, or buy a quality stock from your local butcher or fishmonger.

Cock-a-leekie soup is one of my favourite winter warmers and such a fantastic Scottish classic. The traditional recipe calls for leeks and chicken stock which are then thickened with barley. Prunes are also added during cooking and I still like to use them in my recipe to give the dish balance and that little taste of sweetness. Barley and grains are a great way to add depth and texture to your soups and they can also add bulk so the dish is much more filling, warming and sustaining. It’s the perfect pick-me-up after coming in from the cold of winter.

Cock-A-Leekie

1 whole free-range chicken

1 leek

1 onion

2 carrots

1 sprig thyme

5 white peppercorns

1 bay leaf

salt

Garnish

200g basmati rice

50g chopped prunes

20g chopped parsley

1 chopped leek

In a large pan cover the chicken with cold water and bring to the boil. Add the vegetables and herbs and cook slowly for two or three hours until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the stock and season to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the basmati rice and chopped leeks in boiling salted water. Chop the prunes and parsley, keeping aside for garnish.

Break away the chicken from the bone.

To serve

In a bowl place the cooked rice, chicken, prunes and chopped parsley. Cover in stock and serve.

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