Cocky Leeky Soup

Otherwise known as cock-a-leekie or chicken & leek soup.  Get your mind out of the gutter!  I was introduced to this lovely, heart-warming soup pretty early on, when I went to the delightful cafe Rutabegorz in my hometown for the first time.  I loved it then, but haven't had it in about ten years.

So now, I have been making chicken soup left and right this year, and stuff with leeks also.  The other day, after Garry and I tore into yet another Costco rotisserie chicken, I thought, oh my lord, I have put put the chicken and leeks together this time!

I set about finding the perfect recipe but they are surprisingly hard to find, as I guess it is not a very well known soup outside of its native Scotland, where it is traditional indeed.  There were no recipes in the usual spots:,,,,  There isn't even a wikipedia article for cocky leeky soup!

Never fear, the powers of Google Search came to the rescue.  

I found a couple super basic recipe that were almost too simple to believe: chicken (whole), leeks, white rice, a bit of parsley, and broth.  That's it!  I mean I guess it makes sense, because leeks are so wonderfully flavorful and delicate that they really can shine all on their own in a dish.  But I wanted to get a bit more complexity of flavors so I decided to take the best of all the versions I came across, and make my own version:
  • Chicken stock or water: I took the scraps from my Costco chicken after stripping all the meat from it and boiled it with water, parsley, and bay leaf.  Strained and refrigerated it, then skimmed off the fat.  Yes, a bit labor-intensive.
  • About 3 leeks sliced, green parts trimmed off.  I proceeded to saute them in butter first to make a confit like in Molly Wizenberg's column.
  • Leftover cooked chicken meat.  I think I had almost a whole chicken, minus two legs and wings, but didn't end up using the whole thing
  • 1 1/2 slices of bacon, chopped.  Because bacon is awesome (though I trimmed a bit of fat)
  • 1 carrot, 2 stalks celery, and about half an onion, because I can't really imagine making a western soup without mirepoix.
  • 1 yukon gold potato, diced
  • About 3/4 c. barley: most recipes call for rice, but I prefer the texture of barley in soup
  • Another bay leaf for good measure.
  • Some chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste (be careful, the bacon will leech saltiness)
  • A few teaspoons of flour/cream to thicken
I started with onions and bits of bacon.  In retrospect, I would put only 1 slice because the flavor is so strong, and overpowers the leeks a bit.  Then added carrots and celery until tender.  Then added the leeks, potatoes, herbs.  Let the flavors meld a bit before adding chicken and barley.  Next time I would wait until the end to season, because I underestimated how salty the bacon would be.  When the barley is done, then I add the cream/flour.  Voila.

Other Versions
7 responses
I like the soup but it looks too thick for me. It would make a good filling for a chicken pot pie. What's better than a good chicken soup? A good chicken soup in a buttery crust!
i love Costco rotisserie chickens! surprisingly, awesome.
I only eat Costco roasted chickens. Just rip it apart and eat it. Lasts 3 days, then I buy another.
@yellowkid that's a lot of rotisserie chickens...
This is my favorite soup from Rutabegorz and this version was very close!!! I love the texture of barley as well!!! Thanks for laying down the framework!
Have been eating this soup at Rutabegorz since 1973. The earlier versions will put you in a dream state, it was so rich, smooth & truly creamy. Would adore to have that recipe. These days it's just good, but not great. The recipe has changed and is now very thick, with new flavors. So sad.
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