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What Is Cock-A-Leekie Soup?

Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe

Cock-a-leekie soup is a Scottish dish that is hundreds of years old. Using both chicken (cock) and leeks (leekie), the warmth of a cock-a-leekie soup is generally most suitable for wintertime. Originally, the recipe also included prunes, but in modern recipes these are left out. Rice, cream and extra vegetables are also possible additions.

The earliest mention of cock-a-leekie soup is at the end of the 16th century, when a Scottish nobleman served the soup in his house to his guests. Traditionally, it appears that the chicken that went into the soup was boiled in water, thus creating a stock. Modern interpretations may suggest that the cook roast the chicken for about a quarter of an hour first to brown the skin. An entire chicken, or parts of the chicken, from thighs to breast, can go into the pot to flavor the soup. Some recipes only call for chicken stock, and do not require any chicken meat ingredients at all.

Leeks are one of the two main ingredients in a cock-a-leekie soup.
Leeks are one of the two main ingredients in a cock-a-leekie soup.

Leeks are the other essential component of cock-a-leekie soup. The amount of leek to chicken depends on the cooks preference, from one leek per pot to six leeks or more. Typically, the cook cuts the leeks into half-circles, or dices them up into smaller portions. The leeks take much less time to cook than the chicken, which needs about an hour more in boiling water than the vegetable.

Cock-a-leekie soup typically calls for chicken stock to be used as the base.
Cock-a-leekie soup typically calls for chicken stock to be used as the base.

As well as leeks, vegetables like carrots, onions and celery can also go into the pot, once they are chopped up as small as the leeks. White rice is part of some recipes, but in relatively small quantities compared to the chicken and leek. Seasonings like salt and pepper also need to be added, and bay leaves or thyme are options.

Some people add a spoonful of brown sugar to the soup, and other recipes require the cook to add butter to the soup near the end of cooking. Cream is an ingredient that can give the soup a thicker texture. Prunes, although traditional, are too sweet for some. If the cook does want to add them to the cock-a-leekie soup, the best time to put them in is at the end of cooking, and slicing the prunes into thin slivers can tone down the sweetness.

Once the chicken is cooked properly so the no pink shows in the meat, the cook can remove the carcass, or if the meat is in portions, leave it as it is in the soup. Whether the cook carves off all the meat on the bird and places it back into the soup is up to personal taste, as the remnants of the chicken may be useful for other meals. Bread is a suitable accompaniment to the dish, and parsley can make a fresh garnish.

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    • Leeks are one of the two main ingredients in a cock-a-leekie soup.
      By: wjburgwal
      Leeks are one of the two main ingredients in a cock-a-leekie soup.
    • Cock-a-leekie soup typically calls for chicken stock to be used as the base.
      By: fkruger
      Cock-a-leekie soup typically calls for chicken stock to be used as the base.