Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Easy traditional recipe for Cock-a-Leekie Soup, a classic Scottish soup, often served on Burns Night but just as popular throughout winter.
Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Cock-a-Leekie is a Scottish classic, a wholesome soup that is the perfect balm and sustenance you need on cold winter evenings. While its existence dates back to the late 16th century, with the first recipe in print being in 1598, the name “cock-a-leekie” itself didn’t come about until the 18th century.

What is Cock-a-Leekie Soup, you ask?

Take a look at the recipe and you’ll see that it’s all about the chicken and the leeks, although some food historians say that it started out with fowl and leeks which would go a long way in explaining why prunes are found in this rather deceptively unassuming soup.

My introduction to cock-a-leekie came about sometime in the early 1990s, when a hitherto unknown Scottish aunt paid us a visit in Singapore, regaling us with stories of cock-a-leekie, haggis, neeps and tatties! Yeah, trust me, with her accent, it might as well have been a different language! Neeps and tatties refer to mashed turnips and mashed potatoes that are traditionally served alongside haggis. Haggis? That’s a post for another day!

Cock-a-Leekie soup is popularly served as a starter on special occasions such as St Andrew’s Day and Burns Night, along with the aforementioned haggis, etc. Burns Night falls on the birthdate of the late Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and celebrates his life and all things Scottish with a night of Scottish food, Scottish whisky and Scottish music!

Todays’ recipe is a light broth, very rustic, with perhaps just some parsley for adornment but as you can see, I don’t even do that because I find the fresh parsley just overpowers this time-honoured soup. For that reason also, I choose to stick with the traditional recipe as much as possible, with none of the usual vegetables you’d associate with stews, because let’s face it, it’ll then be just another chicken soup, instead of one that’s characterised by the chicken and leek combination.

A little bit of rice or barley is added to the cock-a-leekie soup to make it more substantial; I personally prefer to use rice, but just a small amount. You could increase the rice or barley if you prefer a slightly more substantial soup. Bear in mind though, the soup is to be enjoyed with plenty of fresh buttered bread – yum! Butter, methinks, makes everything better! Not that this soup needs “bettering”! Having said that, you’ll see that I swirl in a dollop of butter after cooking, I love the depth it adds.

Now we mentioned prunes earlier, didn’t we? Prunes were added to the broth for 2 reasons; to add to both the nutrition and flavour of the soup after the long boiling process of the fowl. Many people aren’t fans of prunes and leave them out altogether or use them as a final garnish but I think they rather enhance the distinctive sweetness of the leeks in the dish. I add them, my husband just picks his out and leaves them on the side. If you have a similar prune hater in the family, drop the prunes in whole, that’ll make it easier to pick them out later.

The recipe also calls for a whole piece of chicken to be used, the chicken meat is then forked apart and added back. Of course, if you are not a fan of working with whole chickens, or perhaps don’t have a pan large enough, use chicken portions but make sure they add up to a similar weight of that of a whole chicken, about 1.5kg (3 pounds or so).

I think that’s all that needs to be said about this recipe, shall we get cooking?

Remember, lots of bread and lots of butter!

If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you!

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Easy traditional recipe for Cock-a-Leekie Soup, a classic Scottish soup, often served on Burns Night but just as popular throughout winter.
5 from 9 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Keyword: chicken, soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 335kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken about 1.5kg (3.3lb) OR chicken portions on the bone, same weight
  • 2 leeks sliced into 2cm/1in rings
  • 2 large carrots chopped into 1cm/half an in rings
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 10 black black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 stoned prunes sliced into thin slithers
  • 30 g basmati rice rinsed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp salted butter

*Optional Garnish*

  • couple of sprigs of fresh parsley OR coriander finely chopped

Instructions

  • Place the chicken in a saucepan large enough to hold the chicken and cover it with cold water.
  • Add the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns and bring to boil on high heat.
  • Lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming off any scum as necessary.
  • At the end of the two hours, lift the chicken out and set aside on a plate and keep warm.
  • Add the rice and prunes and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Pull the chicken into strips and off the bone and add back to the soup to warm through, a couple of minutes at simmer should do.
  • Take off heat and stir in the tbsp of butter.
  • Serve hot with lots of crusty bread, sprinkled with your chosen herb, if using.

Notes

If you are using chicken portions, cook for only about 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Nutrition

Serving: 4 | Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 100mg | Sodium: 513mg | Potassium: 368mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 4137IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg
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2 thoughts on “Cock-a-Leekie Soup”

  1. Maureen Dunn

    This is NOT traditional Cock-a-leekie soup, Azlin!

    I grew up in Scotland in the 1940s & ’50’s. Chicken was NEVER used, it was always mutton, leeks, potatoes, onions and barley.

    1. Good for you. However, my aunt grew up in Scotland in that same time period too and she remembers eating it with chicken. Scotland is a BIG place, and what might have been traditional for you, may not have been traditional for others! And let me bring to your attention the fact that the recipe goes back to the 16th century when it was used to be made with fowl (not mutton), hence the addition of prunes, as I mention above.

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