If Your Loved One Hates Leftovers, This Dish Just Might Convert Them

Thanks to Mary Berry, I got cock-a-lucky with this classic Scottish soup that features leftover chicken and leeks.

Scottish cock-a-leekie soup with leeks and prunes close up in a bowl
Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

For a vocal lover of leftovers, the memory of last night's delightful chicken and dumplings or lamb curry make a compelling argument for getting out of bed and revisiting it for breakfast, lunch, or both. My husband Douglas would – broadly speaking – rather eat his own socks than voluntarily sit down to the same meal two days in a row. "Used food," he's been known to call leftovers, and fine, more for me.

This is why I was absolutely gobsmacked to see him gleefully heating up a portion of cock-a-leekie soup for lunch a couple days in a row over the holidays. He had the makings of his favorite sandwich in the house and everything, and still opted for the very same meal he'd enjoyed in the past 24 hours. A Christmas miracle? A New Year's resolution? Nah, he just really digs this particular leftover chicken soup.

It started with Mary Berry, as many delightful things do. In this case, he'd had her BBC show Country House Secrets humming along in the background, but must have perked up upon hearing the brogue of William Philip David Mungo Murray, Viscount Stormont as he shepherded the cookbook author and TV host through his family's home (which pulls triple-duty as a tourist attraction and luxury hotel), Scone Palace. Inspired by the deep-run history of the Scottish landmark, Berry took to the kitchen to make a regional favorite, a comforting, homey chicken soup with the titular chicken and leeks, as well as the somewhat curious addition of prunes.

We found a cock-a-leekie recipe and made it that night and again the next weekend. Though some modernized versions eschew the fruit, they lend a pleasing sweetness to the mix, melding into the broth so cozily I think I'd feel off kilter if I tasted a version without. Like many big-batch, long-cooked dishes, the initial helping of cock-a-leekie is lovely, but it transmogrifies into something even more flavorful with a loll in the fridge overnight.

When I asked my husband why this particular dish held his fancy enough to reconsider his stance on meal repeats, he told me, "I'm fine with leftovers; I just don't like gross leftovers." Gotcha. Enjoy your used prune soup, mo gradh. Save me a wee bit if you can bear it. I can always make more tomorrow.

Note: The recipe calls for leftover chicken, but I tend to stew a whole chicken because I enjoy the richness that brings to the broth.

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