Tasty Scottish Cock-a-Leekie Soup Recipe

by Scottish Scran - Phil
Cock-a-leekie soup recipe in a bowl

Cock-a-leekie soup is a staple dish in many Scottish homes and, if you’ve been brought up eating Scottish food, there is a high chance you’ll be familiar with this warming Scottish chicken and leek soup. But have you ever made it for yourself?

What is Cock-a-leekie soup?

Traditionally served in the winter and named ‘Scotland’s National Soup’ Cock-a-leekie is a thick and flavoursome soup consisting of leeks, chicken and rice traditionally garnished with prunes.

A soup more popular than Scottish Lentil Soup or Tattie Soup? We found this hard to believe, which meant of course that we had to try it.

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Cock-a-Leekie Soup Recipe - Scottich chicken, leek, and rice soup.

Why is Cock-a-leekie soup called ‘Cock-a-leekie’?

The first printed recipe for Cock-a-leekie soup dates back to 1598, and despite being deemed a Scottish dish, there is a high chance it began its life in France.

However, by the 16th Century the soup had made its way to Scotland and leeks replaced French onions. The basic recipe, a chicken and leek soup has remained the same; the chicken is boiled whole with vegetables, and prunes are used to garnish, creating the filling broth still enjoyed today.

The use of chicken and leeks is of course where this famous soup gets it’s name, cock and leek.

Some recipes now use chicken stock, but we thought we would try the traditional method… …we soon realised that we didn’t have a soup pot big enough to fit a whole chicken.

Cock-a-leekie soup recipe in a bowl

Things you’ll need to make Cock-a-Leekie Soup.

Ingredients for Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Serves 4-6

  • Small whole chicken
  • 4 large leeks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion *optional
  • 120g long grain rice
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 2.5 litres of cold water (approximately)
  • A handful of dried prunes *optional
Cock-a-leekie soup recipe in a bowl

Chicken

The traditional recipe calls for using a whole chicken, specifically an “old chicken” for flavour. However, you can use about 1kg of chicken legs or thighs (bone-in) instead. The cooking time probably won’t be as long since they’re smaller so you will need to keep checking until the juices run clear.

Making the stock

The most important thing is to get as much flavour into the stock part of the recipe, which is the first part where you’re cooking the whole chicken in the cold water. We add the green parts of the 4 leeks, celery, bay leaves, 2 carrots, and an onion, which isn’t strictly traditional but we like the flavour.

Adding plenty of salt and white pepper at this stage is essential too. White pepper has a more subtle taste that compliments the chicken, but if you only have black pepper don’t worry just use that.

Prunes

These are optional, but we quite like them! Many early Cock-a-Leekie recipes use prunes. The prunes give a nice sweetness to the soup. We chop them and sprinkle a few over the top before serving.

How to make Cock-a-Leekie Soup – Step by step method

Cock-a-leekie soup recipe ingredients - small chicken, rice, leeks, carrots, celery

Chop the green parts off the leeks and put in the bottom of a pot, place the chicken on top.

Then surround it with the celery sticks, carrots, onion, and bay leaves. Cut them down to fit if necessary. Add liberal amounts of salt and white pepper.

Pour cold water over the top (it should cover the chicken so you may need to use a little more or less than stated.

Cover and bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for about one hour, until juices run clear when you push a knife into the chicken, or the chicken is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, chop two whites of the leeks into rounds. The other two remains of the leeks are not necessary for the rest of the recipe so you can set aside to use for something else. Chop the 2 remaining carrots into small pieces.

Use a spoon to remove some of the fat that floats to the top of the water.

Remove the chicken (I find the most uncomplicated way is to put in a colander over a bowl to collect any extra liquid, then tip the liquid back in the pot) and set aside to cool a little.

Take out the green part of the leeks, the onion, celery, and carrots

Add the chopped whites of the leeks and the carrot and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the rice and simmer for a further 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the bone and shred, and discard the bones.

Taste the stock and add more salt and pepper if necessary or simmer for longer and allow it to reduce to strengthen the flavour.

Add the shredded chicken back in and allow to heat through for a few minutes.

Dish into a bowl and sprinkle with a few chopped, dried, prunes then serve.

Scottish Cock a Leekie Soup Recipe in a bowl

Variations

Different chicken meat

As mentioned above, you can opt-out of using a whole chicken and just use chicken legs or thighs with bone-in instead. This way is handy if you want to halve the recipe and make a smaller batch or just can’t get a small chicken for whatever reason.

Of course, you can also use a larger size chicken but will want a considerable-sized pot and may need to adjust the quantity of water, plus add a few extras of the stock ingredients to give it enough flavour.

Using pre-cooked chicken

It is possible to make this recipe using pre-cooked chicken.

You’ll need to use chicken stock instead of water and won’t need the extra ingredients you remove after making the stock, so just two carrots and two leeks, no onion, or celery. You can still add the bay leaves if you want.

Shred any chicken you have and stir through to heat up at the end.

Making the stock with a chicken carcass

If you make a roast chicken and have a bit of leftover chicken, you can make this recipe with the carcass and leftover meat.

Simply remove the bulk of the meat from the roasted chicken carcass and set aside. You can then use the carcass to make the soups stock, instead of a whole chicken in the same way as the rest of the recipe. Then stir through the chicken meat at the end.

Keep tasting the stock throughout to make sure it’s strong enough and simmer to reduce if it’s not, topping up with pre-made chicken stock or a stock cube if necessary.

Cock-a-leekie soup recipe in a bowl

How long does Cock-a-leekie Soup last?

The soup will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. You may need to add a little water when reheating if it has thickened up because of the rice.

Can you freeze Cock-a-leekie Soup?

Yes, but we would recommend removing any prunes you have put in as they don’t freeze so well. Also, if you have used chicken that has been previously frozen then thawed it’s not recommended to freeze for a second time.

Cock-a-leekie soup recipe in a bowl

More Scottish Soup Recipes

Yield: 4 - 5 Servings

Tasty Scottish Cock-a-leekie Soup

Cock-a-leekie soup recipe

Cock-a-leekie soup is a staple dish in many Scottish homes and, if you've been brought up eating Scottish food, there is a high chance you'll be familiar with this warming chicken and leek based soup.

Traditionally served in the winter and named 'Scotland's National Soup' Cock-a-leekie is a thick and flavoursome soup consisting of leeks, chicken and rice traditionally garnished with prunes.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • Small whole chicken (1.3lb approx)
  • 4 large leeks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion *optional
  • 120g long grain rice
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 2.5 litres of cold water (approximately)
  • A handful of dried prunes **optional

Instructions

  1. Chop the green parts off the leeks and put in the bottom of a pot, place the chicken on top.
  2. Surround the chicken with the celery sticks, carrots, onion, and bay leaves. Cut them down to fit if necessary.
  3. Add liberal amounts of salt and white pepper.
  4. Pour cold water over the top (it should cover the chicken so you may need to use a little more or less than stated.
  5. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for about one hour, until juices run clear when you push a knife into the chicken, or the chicken is falling off the bone.
  6. Chop two whites of the leeks into rounds. The other two remains of the leeks are not necessary for the rest of the recipe so you can set aside to use for something else.
  7. Chop the 2 remaining carrots into small pieces.
  8. Use a spoon to remove some of the fat that floats to the top of the water.
  9. Remove the chicken (I find the most uncomplicated way is to put in a colander over a bowl to collect any extra liquid, then tip the liquid back in the pot).
  10. Set aside to cool a little.
  11. Take the green part of the leeks, the onion, celery, and carrots from your stock.
  12. Add the chopped whites of the leeks and the carrot and cook for 10 minutes.
  13. Add the rice and simmer for a further 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked.
  14. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the bone and shred, and discard the bones.
  15. Taste the stock and add more salt and pepper if necessary or simmer for longer and allow it to reduce to strengthen the flavour.
  16. Add the shredded chicken back in and allow to heat through for a few minutes.
  17. Dish into a bowl and sprinkle with a few chopped, dried, prunes then serve.

Notes

* The onion is an optional addition to the stock, it's not traditional but we liked the added flavour

** The prunes bring a lovely sweetness to the broth, although we understand they're not to everyone's taste so they're optional!

The most important part of making Cock-a-leekie soup is getting the stock right! You want to get as much flavour into it as possible. Be sure to season it well and reduce it if the flavour isn't there.

For variations, you can use chicken stock and pre-cooked shredded chicken, or use a leftover roast chicken carcass to make the stock in the same way as above, and add any leftover chicken to the soup.

This Cock-a-leekie soup recipe will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and the freezer for about 3 months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 279mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 35g


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