This cock-a-leekie recipe appears in Scottish cookbooks dating from the sixteenth century.
Cock-a-leekie is a soup in which the chicken and shin of beef used to make the delicious broth are sliced back into the soup, to which are added leeks and plump prunes.
I have a much-prized edition of The Cook and Housewife’s Manual by Mistress Margaret (Meg) Dods, published in MDCCCXXXVII (1837), in which the author firmly rejects the prunes. ‘Prunes used to be put to this soup. The practice is obsolete.’ I am just as convinced that the prunes are essential. They complement the sweetness of the leeks, add complexity to the broth and look sensational: dark floating shapes among the white, brown and green.