24 MAY 1986, Page 23


Sir: Sheila Hutchins, Cookery Editor, Dai- ly Express (Letters, 10 May), might find it useful to 'go for guidance', as she puts it, from the Border shepherd, if not from Talleyrand, whose conversation is so memorably recorded in Christopher North's oft-quoted Noctes Ambrosianae.

Shepherd: Speaking o' cockyleekie the man was an athiest that first polluted it with prunes.

North: At least no Christian.

Shepherd: Prunes gie't a sickenin' sweetness till it taste like a mouthfu' o' a cockney poem.

The question of adding prunes to this favourite Scottish soup is almost certainly most sensibly dealt with by F. Marian McNeill in her classic The Scot's Kitchen. She gives Mrs Dulgairn's 1835 receipt which suggests including or omitting prunes according to taste. However, Sheila Hutchins's ideas of adding egg sauce or poached eggs are odd in the extreme. Traditionally just before serving the fowl is cut up and served in the broth it has been simmering in for hours. Eggs in any shape or form would surely make the stomach of North's long-dead shepherd turn in its grave.

I beg you, un cri d'estomac as Talleyrand might say, to allow me to warn your readers against this curious cockney sug- gestion.

John Noble

Ardkinglas, Cairndow, Argyll