Scottish Cock-a-Leekie Soup Recipe

I blog a lot about my so-called Asian life but I am actually (surprise surprise) Scottish. This year, I am looking to add more Scotch to my cooking routine (and on the rocks) as a way to keep my grandparents and heritage nearer to my heart (by that I mean, in my tummy), like this simple method of steaming clams on the grill and recipes that were my Grandma’s, like her bonbons (the bomb-bomb)!

Based on Sue Lawrence’s Scots Cooking book, I bring you the unofficial, official soup of Scotland, cock-a-leekie. Just like it sounds, this soup is all about chicken, leeks and the magic ingredient, PRUNES! Yes, dried plums (thank you to the poetic plum growers association – a prune by any other name….). Delicious on a soggy day, and flexible in term of ingredients and open to many modifications. Here is my interpretation of the classic soup. I used 2 thighs and 3 legs for the darker more moist meat, and it is what I had on hand, certainly could have added a few more pieces. For the water addition, if you used meat not on the bone or perhaps for a quicker version you can use chicken broth and skip the steps making your own. This means you would need less salt and no sherry.

Serve with good crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken about 2-3 lbs or equivalent chicken pieces, preferably on the bones, skin on or off
  • 4 -5 leeks, about 1- 1 ½ inches in diameter
  • 12-16 dried plums (PRUNES!)
  • 2 liters of water (or stock)
  • Black cracked pepper
  • Salt to taste (~ 2-4 teaspoons)
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • For stock
    • 2 tsp butter
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 1-2 sprigs thyme
    • 4 tablespoons cooking sherry
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

Instructions

  • Prepare the leeks by trimming off the very tips if they look grody. Cut the leeks in half the long way/lengthwise then wash them thoroughly and let them drain in a colander for a bit. I was surprised by how much dirt was in there. Cut off the green parts, roughly chop and reserving the mostly white (bottom) part for later. I kept some green parts for the final broth for color and looks.

  • The broth, if using premade stock/broth skip this step. In large saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped carrot and onions, sautéing for about 5 minutes until onions begin to turn translucent. Add the garlics and sauté for a few more minutes. Then add the sherry to the pan to loosen up the brown bits (of awesomeness) and deglaze by stirring for about a minute. Remember sherry contributes to salt to the overall recipe. Add in the thyme or other herbs, such as oregano etc. In a few steps these items will get strained out. I also put in a few whole peppercorns, but honestly don’t think they added a thing.
  • Add the 2 liters of water to the sauce pan containing the stock ingredients. Add in the green parts of the leeks and the chicken. If all the meat isn’t covered, add more liquid. At this point if you were using premade broth, you would have the chicken in the pot, green leaks and add the broth, or a combination of water and broth (might need more salt at the end).
  • Bring the soup contents to a boil and then let it simmer covered for about an hour. If using premade broth, this time would be reduced by about half. Taste your broth and add some salt if you think it might need it.
  • Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and then strain the broth by either scooping out the leeks/carrots/onions etc. with a slotted spoon or pouring into another container through a strainer.
  • Remove the chicken from the bones and tear into pieces. Discard the skin, bones, strained out items etc.

  • Pour the strained broth back into the same pot. Chop the white portion of the leaks add to the broth, add the prunes/dried plums and shredded chicken. At this point you can refrigerate it to serve later, or heat for about 20 minutes to warm everything through and soften up the prunes. I tried to mush up the prunes a little bit to release their magic. You should taste again to see if the soup needs more salt.

  • When ready to serve, add cracked pepper and some parsley (if you have it). Enjoy!
  • Modifications for future versions to include: bacon (because you know, everything is better with bacon, will cook with onions for the stock), barley, more garlic and playing around with spices like clove, nutmeg and curry. Yum!

“According to the statistics, a man eats a prune every twenty seconds. I don’t know who this fellow is, but I know where to find him.” Morey Amsterdam (1908-1966)

As I read my way through James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series, I am also collecting recipe ideas. What favorites do you have?

4 thoughts on “Scottish Cock-a-Leekie Soup Recipe

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