04/26/2012 06:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Just when we thought cold evenings and chilly mornings were behind us, the weather turned brisk in DC.  Luckily, I froze a container of Cock-a-Leekie soup from a batch I made during the winter.  Amazingly addictive, this soup is a great weekend one-dish supper and freezes well.  It has a few steps, but the result is well worth the effort.  


Cock-a-Leekie is Scottish in origin; the earliest written recipe dates from 1598.  Typically its main ingredients are meat or chicken, leeks, and prunes -- with variations on the spices and extras.  These days the soup is served on the Scottish national holiday, St. Andrew's Day, the birthday of Scotland's bard, Robert Burns, and a winter solstice holiday called Hogamanay.  

While I'm not Scottish, I may have to start celebrating one or more of those days.  Imagine Cock-a-Leekie soup on a cold evening, with ale, and dark bread, followed gingerbread and whipped cream for dessert.  After dinner, perhaps a bit of good whiskey and Burns poetry or Scottish music too! 

This recipe is from Elizabeth Schneider's authoritative Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, a fabulous resource, especially if you're inclined, as I am, to buy interesting-looking vegetables and then wonder when you get home exactly what you've got or how to cook it. (Elizabeth is a friend, but that isn't why I recommend her book.  I have spent many enjoyable hours pouring through this treasure and refer to it often for information and recipes.)

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Servings - 6 as a main course  Cost - $17.50 pot / $3 per serving

Reprinted with permission from Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, with my equipment list and cost information, plus notes in italics. 


  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 quarts chicken broth (or a mixture of chicken and vegetable broths) -  I used a combination of store-bought chicken broth and homemade vegetable broth
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (whole) chicken, about 3½ pounds (If the idea of cutting meat off a whole chicken freaks you out, buy one cut up or use the equivalent weight of assorted chicken pieces.)
  • 2½ pounds of leeks (5 medium leeks)
  • ½ cup pearled barley
  • ½ tablespoon curry powder (Equivalent to 1½ teaspoons.  This amount is approximate and may need to be adjusted if your curry is particularly hot or mild.) 
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if broth is salted)
  • 12 pitted prunes, halved
  • About 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup minced parsley and/or celery leaves 



  • Cutting board
  • 2 knives - small and med/large
  • Vegetable peeler
  • 2 bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup  (½ cup size)
  • 2 large spoons (one with holes or slits)
  • Large pot
  • Strainer

For step-by-step directions, including pictures, click here.