Tag Archives: Scottish Oatcakes

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie soup was on the menu during my first cruise in 1991 and I have loved this simple fare ever since.

While its origins are unclear, this savoury broth soup is most often associated with Scotland.  In particular, it is often standard fare as a starter on menus for “Burns Night” dinners which, of course, celebrate the birth of Scotland’s famed poet and lyricist, Robert Burns (aka Rabbie Burns) on January 25th. Burns, as you may know, wrote many famous poems and lyrics during his short life and one you may most recognize would be “Auld Lang Syne” which is often sung on New Year’s Eve.

And, as a wee bit of soup trivia, “Cockie Leekie” was also one of two soup options on the Titantic’s  First Class Passengers’ lunch menu on the  day the ship sank in April, 1912.

Earliest tracings of this soup date back to the 1500s. Of course, with Scottish ancestry, I am wondering if my ancestors from the Isle of Skye may have dined on Cock-A-Leekie soup. As I write this posting, it is the eve of “Burns Night” so it seems apropos that I would do a posting with a Scottish flavour.    I am, therefore, sharing my recipe for Cock-A-Leekie soup.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

So, what’s in Cock-A-Leekie soup? Well, the answer is, not much, actually.  As its name suggests, the two main ingredients are chicken and leeks – in fact, you may hear the soup called “Chicken Cock-A-Leekie” or “Chicken and Leek Soup”.  Original recipes also called for the addition of prunes in this soup and it’s unclear as to why unless they were added for extra nutrition.  Barley is often added to the soup to act as a filler and to provide some natural thickening to the broth.  Rice is sometimes used instead of barley.  Very little seasoning is added to a traditional Cock-A-Leekie soup, often nothing more than a bit of thyme and parsley.

Over the years that I have been making this soup which, by the way, freezes well, I have “jazzed” it up a tad to add some additional flavour. By adding some parsnip, carrots, celery, and rutabaga, nutritional value is increased and the soup is more filling and can, in fact, be used as a main meal for lunch, as opposed to a starter.  My recipe also has some flavour boost from minced garlic, allspice, and Herbes de Provence.  I don’t add a lot of any of these but just enough to increase the flavour a bit.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

I use chicken breasts with bone in for this recipe.  In my view, any meat or poultry with the bone in has more flavour than boneless versions. Because chicken is one of the main ingredients in this soup, about 2 cups of meat will be required.  Generally, about 1 1/4 lbs of chicken breast, bone in, will yield around 2 cups of cooked chicken, diced. I also add a bay leaf, some liquid chicken bouillon, and a handful of celery leaves to the chicken as it cooks – the leaves from 2-3 stalks of celery will suffice.  I find chicken can be very bland unless it is given a flavour boost.

The chicken for this recipe can either be diced or shredded. My preference is to dice the chicken (as shown in the photo below) as it makes a tidier soup and I find the shredded chicken to be too stringy for my liking.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

The different vegetables in this soup require different cooking times so, parsnips and rutabaga and celery get added first to give them a head start on the cooking process.

Because this soup does not need to cook for hours on the stove, I recommend the use of pearl barley over pot barley because it cooks quicker.  In addition, I have added some split red lentils to the recipe as they, along with the barley, help to naturally thicken the broth without adding any other thickening agent (such as flour or cornstarch). Lentils belong to the legume family and are edible pulses which are crops harvested solely for the dry seed.

Split Red Lentils
Split Red Lentils

Because the split red lentils cook quickly and the idea is that they not turn to mush in this recipe and detract from the soup’s broth texture, add them near the end of the soup cooking process. Lentils are, of course, rich in fibre, have a high protein content, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals all of which naturally lead to numerous health benefits. So, they are a good contributor to healthy soups.

This soup can be served with crusty rolls, baguette, biscuits, crackers, or with traditional Scottish oatcakes as I have done here.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

I hope you will try Cock-A-Leekie soup and that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups water
2½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
1¼ lb. skinless chicken breasts, bone in (should yield apx. 2 cups diced chicken, cooked)
1 bay leaf
Handful of celery leaves

1 small parsnip, sliced thinly
1 celery rib, sliced
2/3 cup rutabaga, diced
2 tbsp pearl barley
¾ tsp salt
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 cups sliced leek (white and light green parts) – apx. 1 large leek
1½ tsp minced garlic
1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp split red lentils
1/8 tsp allspice
¾ tsp Herbes de Provence
¾ tsp dried parsley

Sour cream, parsley, and truffle oil for garnish (optional)

Method:

In medium-sized soup pot, bring the water and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add chicken breasts, bay leaf, and celery leaves. Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until chicken pieces are cooked, using a meat thermometer to check doneness.

Remove chicken pieces from broth and transfer to heat-resistant plate to cool slightly before removing meat from the bones. Remove and discard celery leaves.

While chicken is cooling, add the parsnip, celery, rutabaga, barley, and salt to the broth.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook vegetables for about 10 minutes then add the carrot, leek, garlic and brown sugar.

Sliced leek for Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Sliced leek for Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Return mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the lentils, allspice, Herbes de Provence, and parsley. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, just until lentils are tender but not mushy.

Split Red Lentils
Split Red Lentils

Dice, or shred, chicken and add to soup. Heat gently for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a dob of sour cream, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.

Yield: Apx. 6 servings (1 cup each)

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

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Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Yield: 6

Serving Size: 1-cup

A tasty broth-based soup filled with nutritious ingredients and flavour.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1¼ lb. skinless chicken breasts, bone in (should yield apx. 2 cups diced chicken, cooked)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Handful of celery leaves
  • 1 small parsnip, sliced thinly
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 2/3 cup rutabaga, diced
  • 2 tbsp pearl barley
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced leek (white and light green parts) – apx. 1 large leek
  • 1½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp split red lentils
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • ¾ tsp Herbes de Provence
  • ¾ tsp dried parsley
  • Sour cream, parsley, and truffle oil for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized soup pot, bring the water and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add chicken breasts, bay leaf, and celery leaves. Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until chicken pieces are cooked, using a meat thermometer to check doneness.
  2. Remove chicken pieces from broth and transfer to heat-resistant plate to cool slightly before removing meat from the bones. Remove and discard celery leaves.
  3. While chicken is cooling, add the parsnip, celery, rutabaga, barley, and salt to the broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook vegetables for about 10 minutes then add the carrot, leek, garlic and brown sugar. Return mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the lentils, allspice, Herbes de Provence, and parsley. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, just until lentils are tender but not mushy.
  4. Dice, or shred, chicken and add to soup. Heat gently for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
  5. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a dob of sour cream, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.
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Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Old-Fashioned Scottish Oatcakes

 

Old-fashioned Oatcakes served with Brie and J.J. Stewart's Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves
Old-fashioned Oatcakes served with Brie and J.J. Stewart’s Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves

Oatcakes are very versatile and take such basic, simple ingredients.  A cross between a cookie and a cracker, they are savory bites and are not overly sweet.  In fact, I would describe these artisan cookies/crackers as having a nice short, crisp texture.  Scottish in origin, oatcakes probably made their debut in Canada when they arrived along with Scottish immigrants.

Oatcakes can be eaten as plain cookies or sandwiched together with jam or date filling.  They can be consumed as crackers served with various condiments such as tangy gourmet preserves and marmalades alongside cheese, such as Brie.  Here I am serving them with J.J. Stewart’s Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves made in Stratford, PEI.  You can read the story I wrote earlier on J.J. Stewart’s products by clicking here.

This product is a bit sharp and tangy and goes particularly well with a plain oatcake and Brie cheese.   Whatever preserve, jam, or marmalade you serve with these, make sure it is not runny.  It needs to be fairly thick consistency so it will stay in place atop the oatcake. Choosing a bright red jam makes these colorful savories!

Oatcakes can also be dipped in chocolate.  And, yes, they can even find their way onto an afternoon tea table because they taste especially good with a fine cup of tea.  In fact, I served them at my Tartan Day Afternoon Tea this year.

Oatcakes at Afternoon Tea
Oatcakes at Afternoon Tea

 

Old-fashioned Savory Oatcakes

 Ingredients:

1 cup shortening

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups oatmeal (not instant)

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Oatcake Ingredients
Oatcake Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350°.

With electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in vanilla.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.

With mixer at lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until combined.

Remove bowl from mixer and, using a wooden spoon, add the oatmeal.  Stir well.

Roll out dough thin – between ⅛” and ¼” thick.  Cut into 2” circles or squares.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from oven an let set on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Oatcakes freeze very well.  They are a great staple to have on hand along with a good quality preserve or marmalade so, when company drops in unexpectedly, it is quick and easy to pull together some refreshments.  Set out the bottle of preserve, a stack of oatcakes, some favorite cheese, and fresh fruit and you have a savory snack food!

 

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Oatcakes
Scottish Oatcakes

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A Tartan Day Afternoon Tea

Prince Edward Island Tartan Teacup and Saucer
Prince Edward Island Tartan Teacup and Saucer

Today is National Tartan Day.  Tartan Day is celebrated each year on April 6th which coincides with the signing of the Scottish Declaration of Independence — the Declaration of Arbroath — in 1320.  It is a day of observance to recognize and celebrate the Scottish heritage and the contributions of the Scots and their descendents to Canada’s history, development, and culture.  In Canada, the day first originated in Nova Scotia in the late 1980s and then later spread across the country culminating with it being proclaimed, on October 21, 2010, by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, as an observance day all across Canada.  I understand it is also celebrated in several other countries around the world.  Tartans are, of course, synonymous with Scottish descendents.  Tartan Day has a particular significance on Prince Edward Island because, according to the PEI Government website, people of Scottish descent make up the largest ethnic group in the Province[1].

Canada, as a whole, has the Maple Leaf Tartan as its official tartan which became an official national symbol by ministerial declaration on March 9, 2011.   Most provinces also each have their own unique official tartan.  The PEI tartan was designed and registered in 1959 by Elizabeth Jean MacLean Reed from Covehead, PEI.  Through an official tartan design contest, Mrs. Reed’s tartan was selected and adopted as PEI’s official tartan on June 16, 1960. 

Official Prince Edward Island Tartan

The colors of the tartan each represent some aspect of the Island:  The overall reddish-brown color signifies the redness of the Island soil; the green portrays the grass and trees; the white represents the whitecaps of the waves that lap our shores, and the yellow is said to stand for the sun[2].  If you have ever had the opportunity to fly in over PEI on a beautiful, clear, sunny day in spring, the landscape of the Island does look like a tartan checkerboard with green fields and trees and the red land.  The traditional PEI tartan is a very good depiction of the colors of the Island.

In addition, the Island also has an official dress tartan. 

Prince Edward Island Dress Tartan
Prince Edward Island Dress Tartan

This tartan was designed by Ben Taylor, Scott MacAulay, Barbara Brown, and John (Jock) Hopkirk.  Unveiled on June 25, 1992, the dress tartan is a different design from the official provincial tartan although it maintains the overall reddish-green color scheme.[3]    The PEI dress tartan substitutes white blocks for one of the darker colors in the traditional tartan.[4]

I recently spoke with Barbara (Brown) Yorke, one of the designers of the PEI dress tartan, to find out when the dress tartan would be worn.  Ms. Yorke tells me that the dress tartan is often worn by highland dancers who favor the lighter color (than traditional tartans which tend to be darker) because the kilts, with matching socks, made of the lighter tartan makes the dark shoes of the dancers stand out.

The following photo shows the comparison of the traditional and dress Prince Edward Island tartans with the dress tartan (on the left-hand side of the photo) being much lighter in color.
Traditional (Right) and Dress (Left) Prince Edward Island Tartans
Traditional (Right) and Dress (Left) Tartans of Prince Edward Island

My celebration of Tartan Day involves an afternoon tea using, of course, my Prince Edward Island tartan teacups and saucers.  My tea selection today is Bentley’s Lemon, Honey & Chamomile Herbal Tea.  

On my menu for Tartan Day are egg salad sandwiches with dill, along with fruit cake, coconut roll dates, and Scottish oatcakes, of course, to represent my Scottish heritage.  

I am using my small ivory and gold-colored teapot this afternoon since it fits in with the rich tones of the Island tartan.

Let’s take a closer look at the elements on the tea table and the significance they bring to a Tartan Day afternoon tea.
One of my favorite tea sandwiches is the traditional egg filling sandwich which is particularly good flavored with dillweed.  The yellow egg salad filling represents the yellow in the tartan.  The dill and green grapes depict the green in the tartan.
Scottish Oatcakes seem appropriate for my tea table today along with some fruitcake which, incidentally, has the colors of the Prince Edward Island tartan (you’d almost think I planned that but I didn’t!).  I added a couple of coconut roll dates to round out the sweet tier.
I used my small two-tier server today.  It’s ideal when I am only serving two courses at afternoon tea and it doesn’t take up much room on a small tea table as I am using today.
And, when it all came together, here’s what my tea table looks like today.
My choice of flowers for the tea table are these bright and colorful tulips, grown on PEI in the Vanco Farm greenhouses in Mount Albion.  It has been such a long miserable winter, with blizzard after blizzard for the past four months on the Island, that I need colorful flowers to brighten my life!  The colors of these seemed to work with my color scheme for today’s afternoon tea.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into how My Island Bistro Kitchen celebrated Tartan Day today.  Do you celebrate Tartan Day?  What are your traditions for the day?
Happy Tartan Day!

[1] Source:  The Government of Prince Edward Island website. http://www.gov.pe.ca/infopei/index.php3?number=1526

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Source:  College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada website. http://www.collegeofpiping.com/aboutus.php

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I will be joining Rose Chintz Cottage for this week’s Tea Time Tuesday.

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