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A Scottish chicken soup with a cheeky name for chilly spring nights

(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post)

Ever hear of a soup swap? I attended one for the first time recently and came home with new-to-me soup varieties, new friends and plans to make soup-swapping a new tradition in my life.

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Here’s how it works: Each attendee makes six quarts of one type of soup (I made my Family Favorite Minestrone). Everyone gets together, sets out their soup containers and describes their contribution. Then, in six choosing rounds, one for each quart of soup brought, you pick a different soup from the lineup. I came home with a thrilling variety, including chicken gumbo, red lentil and cock-a-leekie, which inspired this recipe. It was my first time trying the traditional Scottish soup, which I find as fun to say as it is satisfying to cook and eat. True to its name, its main ingredients are chicken and leeks. From there, ingredients and preparations vary depending on whom you ask, but I did my best to approximate the version I received in the swap, a soothing tasty pot of goodness made with carrots, celery and barley in a homemade chicken stock.

Experiencing the transformation of the few simple ingredients makes cooking it incredibly satisfying. It takes a couple of hours, but it’s relatively hands off, so it’s ideal for a day you might be puttering around your home.

First you make a stock by simmering bone-in chicken thighs, leeks, carrot, celery, salt and a bay leaf in water for about an hour and a half. You could substitute chicken breast if you prefer, but it will not yield as rich of a stock, and it would need a bit less cooking time so the meat doesn’t get tough. Ultimately, you strain the stock and pull the chicken off the bone to use in the soup.

Once the stock is done, you can continue to make the soup immediately or refrigerate it overnight — or for up to three days — and, if you want a lighter broth, scrape off the fat that solidifies on top. Personally, I like to keep at least some of the fat for body and richness. You add more leeks, carrots and celery to the simmering stock, then the barley and a touch of white pepper, and cook until everything is tender.

Finally, you toss in the chicken meat and serve the soup garnished with parsley. It’s a truly nourishing comfort food, one I enjoyed so much I plan to put in regular rotation, and might even bring to my next soup swap.

Get the recipe: Cock-a-Leekie Soup (Chicken and Leek Soup With Barley)