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Catholic Recipe: Traditional Cock-a-Leekie Soup


  • 2 pounds 12 ounces whole chicken (fresh and free-range)
  • 12 medium-sized leeks (well-washed and chopped to 1-inch lengths)
  • 4 ounces long grain rice (washed)
  • 3 to 4 medium-sized carrots (peeled and grated)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (crushed, to taste)
  • Garnish: Chopped parsley


Serves: 4

Prep Time: 1 1/2 hours

Difficulty:  ★★☆☆

Cost:  ★★★☆

For Ages: All

Origin: Scotland


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This earthy and traditional Scottish dish dates back to the 16th century. This is a chicken and leek soup, with many variations. Some optional ingredients are: chopped grilled bacon, beef stock or vegetable stock, or stewed prunes added to the finished dish. Barley is also a grain of choice to make the soup, but rice is preferred.

Our recipe uses a whole chicken cooked in a pot, but no prunes. If you like the sweet-savory combination, use prunes either by adding 12 pitted prunes to the pot 40 minutes before the end of the cooking time or by slicing some stewed prunes on top as garnish.

Whichever your choice of recipe for cock-a-leekie, do try this traditional, easy recipe based on one from the late Ronnie Clydesdale of the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow, one of the most Scottish restaurants to be found. Elaine Lemm


Place the chicken and half of the chopped leeks in a large stockpot or pan and cover with cold water (or broth). Cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 hour, or until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the heat. Take out the chicken, placing on a dish or large plate and reserve, covered, until it is cool.

Strain the broth into a clean pan large enough to hold the remaining ingredients.

Add the rice to the stock and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the grated carrots and the rest of the chopped leeks. Continue cooking for 20 more minutes, uncovered.

Taste for the strength of flavor in the broth and, if necessary, reduce the liquid even further to increase it until it has reached your desired flavor. Season the broth with salt and pepper.

Chop some of the reserved chicken into pieces. Either add to the soup, or place it into hot bowls, and pour over the broth and vegetables. The soup is traditionally served with big chunks of vegetables and chicken. Optional: add chopped parsley on top of each bowl.

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