I hope that at some odd times you may afford yourselves an old hen or cock; and when this occurs, this is the way in which I recommend that it be cooked, viz.:–First pluck, draw, singe off the hairs, and tie the fowl up in a plump shape; next, put it into a boiling-pot with a gallon of water, and a pound of Patna rice, a dozen leeks cut in pieces, some peppercorns and salt to season; boil the whole very gently for three hours, and divide the fowl to be eaten with the soup, which will prove not only nourishing but invigorating to the system.

Okay, first of all, never get a chicken that has hairs that need singeing. Birds have feathers, they do not have hairs. If yours does, then you may have been fraudulently sold a gremlin or a bad faery, in which case being poor is the least of your worries. And really, you ought to know better than to buy meat from a 100 year-old Chinese gypsy in an alley.

This is basically chicken soup with leeks and Patna rice, based on the Scottish cock-a-leekie soup (though original recipes do not contain rice, but include prunes). Patna rice is a variety of long-grain aromatic rice that is cultivated in the vicinity of Patna, the capital of Bihar State, India. I reckon Basmati rice would be a perfectly suitable facsimile.

Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to find a good, old cock these days, and a young cock is rarely enough to sate the large appetite of an honest, hard-working fellow. Therefore, I recommend substituting a stewing chicken. And contrary to what Francatelli suggests, a big helping of cock is seldom invigorating; rather, it is just the thing for those in need of a long sleep.


Instead of killing, plucking, disemboweling and dismembering a chicken (who has the time?) do yourself a favor and just buy a stewing hen already cut up. It’s usually the same price or even cheaper than buying a whole hen. Put the chicken, including the neck and back, in a Dutch oven with a gallon of water; a dozen small summer leeks (or three or four large winter leeks), well-cleaned and sliced finely; a bouquet garni, a teaspoon of peppercorns. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for three hours. Add salt to taste at the end.

You may be wondering about the rice. Here’s the thing: if you want the soup to be more like congee (rice porridge), then by all means, add the rice at the beginning and let it cook for three hours. But if you want the rice to be discernable in the broth, then add it for the last 20 minutes.