As noted in the previous post, it is likely that it was Scotland’s French allies who introduced the leek into Scotland — at very least, the French encouraged their use in Scottish recipes. Probably the most well-known use of leeks in Scotland is the country’s famous cockaleekie soup.
Cockaleekie soup would traditionally be served as a soup course, with the chicken removed and served later, probably after the haggis. However, I like the more recent, semi-traditional versions that can, with the addition of salad and bread, be a whole meal. (Also, traditionally, you’d be boiling an old fighting cock with its head and feet still on—so I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed that this has been updated.)
The addition of prunes is an item of controversy–some see them as immutable tradition, others view them as pollutants. I like the vaguely wine-like undertones they give the broth. You can make your own decision. If you opt for prunes, you need to use ones that still have their pits; if the prune has been pitted, the insides dissolve and make the broth muddy. Though I add prunes while cooking, and enjoy eating them myself, I recommend leaving them in the pot if serving this dish to guests, since a pit can be an unwelcome surprise in the midst of feasting. Continue reading
I first tried Scottish oatcakes while traveling in Scotland. A friend and I were driving across country (for those of you who have read my book, Waltzing Australia, I was traveling with Jo, who I met in Western Australia a few years earlier), and we had stopped at a dairy that specializes in goat-milk products. The goat cheese was served with oatcakes, and I instantly became addicted (must be in my blood). Oatcakes have a wonderful, nutty, wholesome taste. They go fabulously well with cheese, but they are also great with a bit of honey. Actually, oatcakes excel in supporting roles. They also make good breakfast substitutes—oatmeal on the go.
As is true of most of the world’s simple flatbreads, oatcakes represent a tradition that stretches back millennia. These would be as easily prepared at a primitive fireplace, simply slapped on heated rocks, as they are in today’s kitchens.
Oatcakes are generally rolled into 6-inch to 8-inch circles and then cut into fourths. The Scottish name for the round oatcake is bannock, while the sections into which the bannock is divided are farls. (Farl comes from the term fardel, which means “a fourth part,” though now the term farl refers only to quarters of oatcakes or shortbread.) They would originally have been made on a hot griddle over an open fire, but they translate well to an indoor griddle or heavy frying pan, and can also be baked in the oven (my preferred method, because they don’t have to be tended). They are remarkably easy to make and very wholesome. Enjoy. Continue reading