This recipe is based on the traditional Scottish soup, Cock-a-leekie. The unusual combination of leeks and prunes is surprisingly delicious.

  • 1 chicken, weighing about 2 kg / 4¼ lb
  • 900 g / 2 lb leeks
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • a few each fresh parsley stalks and thyme sprigs
  • 1 large carrot, thickly sliced
  • 2.4 litres / 4 pints / 10 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 115 g / 4 oz / generous ½ cup pearl barley
  • 400 g / 14 oz ready-to-eat prunes
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
  1. Cut the breast portions off the chicken and set aside. Place the remaining carcass in a large pan. Cut half the leeks into 5 cm / 2 in lengths and add them to the pan. Tie the bay leaf, parsley and thyme into a bouquet garni and add tot eh pan with the carrot and the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer gently for 1 hour. Skim off any scum when the water first boils and during simmering.
  2. Add the chicken breast portions and cook for another 30 minutes, until they are just cooked. Leave until cool enough to handle, then strain the stock into a bowl. Reserve all the chicken meat. Discard all the skin, bones, cooked vegetables and herbs. Skim as much fat as you can from the stock, then return it to the pan.
  3. Meanwhile, rinse the pearl barley thoroughly in a sieve under cold running water, then cook it in a large pan of boiling water over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse well again and drain thoroughly.
  4. Add the pearl barley to the stock. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then lower the heat and cook very gently for 15-20 minutes, until the barley is just cooked and tender. Season the soup with 5 ml / 1 tsp salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Add the prunes. Slice the remaining leeks and add them to the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until the leeks are just cooked.
  6. Slice the chicken breast portions and add them to the soup with the remaining chicken meat, sliced or cut into neat pieces. Reheat if necessary, then ladle the soup into deep plates and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Chicken And Leek Soup With Prunes And Barley