Cock-A-Leekie Soup: A Perfect Fall Recipe

Cock-A-Leekie Soup Cover

Cock-A-Leekie Soup is a Scottish soup dish of leeks and chicken stock, classically thickened with barley, and is perfect for fall. It is a peasant dish with many regional variations, some which go back as far as the 16th century. The original recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes (sometimes soaked in scotch for the full effect). I omitted the prunes altogether because we don’t really like them, although my husband was willing to try for the scotch.

I first discovered Cock-A-Leekie Soup at a pre-1800 early frontier encampment we visited at a festival. I am intrigued with outdoor and cast iron cooking (and it is primarily what I use at home) and watched one of the re-enactors cooking this soup for her family. I asked her about it and she told me what it was called and the recipe. I adapted it from her recipe, some online finds (listed below) and of course, added my own touch based on my tastes (as I believe you should in cooking). This is a rustic dish so don’t get caught up in perfect measurements or precise cutting. It’s a perfect fall recipe that is really satisfying, easy to cook and makes plenty of leftovers – you don’t want to miss out!

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Cook time: About 2 hours

Total time to make: About 2 hours, 30 minutes

What You Need:

  • One whole chicken cut up (I buy mine like that, but you could use any type of chicken you wanted/have on hand)
  • 6-7 leeks, cut lengthwise and then into pieces/chunks (I only used the white/light green parts at the bottom of the stalk, see below if you need detailed cutting instructions)
  • 4-6 carrots total; 4 or 5 peeled and cut into chunks/strips; 1 unpeeled carrot
  • 1 onion, peeled, cut in half
  • 3 quarts chicken broth or stock (2 quarts are necessary for the soup, I like a 3rd quart to make it more brothy and for leftovers)
  • 1 cup white rice (you could use any kind of rice you wanted)
  • Water equivalent to make 1 cup rice (found on the rice packaging, usually a cup or so)
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, pre-sliced or cut into quarters/slices
  • Spices (use your imagination on what you add and the amounts, according to what you like or don’t like!):
    • A pinch of Garlic powder
    • Some Oregano
    • Some Thyme
    • A bit of Salt
    • A pinch of Black pepper
    • Some Sweet Curry Powder
    • A dash of Celery Salt
  • 3-4 Bay Leaves
  • Parsley, a handful fresh, roughly chopped
  • Celery leaves, a handful fresh, roughly chopped

What You Do:

  • Pour 2 quarts of stock into a large stock pot
  • Lightly season chicken (with skin and bones) with salt and black pepper.
  • Place chicken in pot with whole, unpeeled carrot, half of the onion and bay leaves (you can also place the chicken parts in the pot if they came with the chicken)
  • Cover the pot and simmer gently for 1 hour or until the chicken is falling off the bone

(While the chicken is cooking)

  • Cut leeks, rinse well in a colander or strainer and set aside (discard tops, see below for cutting instructions, if needed)
  • Peel and chop carrots and set aside
  • Chop/slice mushrooms if needed and set aside
  • Chop parsley and celery leaves and set aside
  • Mix dry spices in a small bowl and set aside

(After the chicken is cooked through)

  • Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool
  • Remove the vegetables, other chicken parts, bay leaves and discard
  • Strain the stock if needed and return to pot
  • Add rice to broth and equivalent of water needed to cook rice (found on rice package or about a cup)
  • Add the leeks, carrots, mushrooms, herbs and spices to the pot (except fresh parsley and celery leaves); stir, bring to a simmer and cover.
  • While the vegetables continue to cook, de-bone chicken and remove skins, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Add cut up chicken pieces to pot of broth, rice and vegetables
  • Cook all ingredients for another 30-45 minutes at a simmer, covered, until vegetables are really tender
  • In the last few minutes, add fresh parsley and celery leaves to the pot, as well as any extra broth you may desire; stir to heat through
  • Ladle into bowls and serve hot!

Please note: Due to the rice in the soup, you may need to add more broth prior to re-heating leftovers

Additional recipes for Cock-A-Leekie Soup/Resources:

Tell me about you. Have you tried Cock-A-Leekie Soup? Is a favorite for your family? What variations do you add (or subtract) to make it your own? Did you enjoy this recipe?

Until the next mile marker,

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Sara’s Summer Garden Series: Tips for Container Garden Success

Sara's Summer Garden Series Cover

I used to think because I live in a townhome I couldn’t have a garden. It was my husband who convinced me otherwise shortly after we moved in and we’ve been gardening ever since. I am fortunate enough to have a large patio, but you can plant a container garden no matter how much space you have. A container garden can be anything from a pot or two of your favorite summer vegetables like tomatoes or peppers to an herb garden hanging on a window pane to an array of flowers and plants to an elaborate set-up of pots and troughs. It just depends and versatility is one of my favorite things about container gardening. I have learned, over the years, there are a few things that can make or break a container garden. And, even though I still have much to learn, here are a few of my tips for container garden success.

  • First things first, choose a container for your plants. And, keep in mind anything can be a container! You can use pots (I look for pots and planters on sale), wheelbarrows, old watering cans, hanging baskets, troughs – anything that can hold a decent amount of soil can substitute for a container. This is where creativity comes in to truly make it your own. Someday, I would like to make an herb garden out of mason or glass jars. If you’re not sure where to start, visit your local dollar or grocery store and pick up a bunch of pots that you like.
  • Make sure your container has adequate drainage or the water will accumulate at the bottom of the container with nowhere to go and eventually the roots of your plants will rot. If you do not have (or cannot drill) holes in the bottom of the container, put some gravel in the bottom to help filter the water. This has worked wonders for us in the past.
  • Use a high-quality potting soil when planting your container garden. It is important to use a soilless mix because it is lightweight and allows the roots of the plants to grow freely. We make our own potting soil now. I have used regular potting soil, but it is heavy and retains a lot of water so I prefer what we make or a soilless type. You must use some kind of potting soil that is formulated for containers, not top soil like you would put in a flower bed. You can find all types of soil at your local gardening center or superstore.
  • As you begin purchasing your plants, make sure you pay attention to the information cards that come with them. While it is beneficial and even fun to plant multiple varieties of plants or vegetables in the same container, you want to be careful of the growing conditions like sunlight. Keep sun, partial sun and shade plants separate to maximize growth. One good thing with a container garden is that you can move the entire pot if the plants are receiving too little or not enough sun.
  • Be creative! If you are planting flowers, you can plant some bold flowers or spikes in the middle of a container and some hanging flowers around the edges for a dramatic look. If you are planting vegetables or herbs, you can do the same thing by making a salad or “regional” planter. For example, my Italian planter has a tomato plant in the middle, sweet banana peppers and romaine lettuces around the outside.
Italian Planter

Italian Planter

  • Remember, your container garden depends on you more than a regular garden. Be sure to fertilize it regularly with a 20-20-20 fertilizer or compost. Roots in a container cannot search for water, so you will need to check your plants daily to see if they need watered. My garden gets watered every evening in the hot and sunny summer months. If it is especially hot, I may water them twice a day because my patio does not get much shade.

If you are wondering if it is too late to start your garden, you still have time! Pick up come pots or gather up some unused containers from the garage, soil and plants that are already established and then get started now using my tips for container garden success.

What about you? Do you have a container garden? What tips can you share that make your’s a success?

Until the next mile marker,

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