Cock-A-Leekie Pie

17 03 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the day we celebrate all things Irish whether you have Irish blood or are just Irish in spirit.  If you’re spending the evening at a pub or having a quiet night at home, an Irish-inspired dinner is a must to celebrate.  And of course, don’t forget the beer!

This is basically a pot pie, made with chicken, leeks and potatoes.  To save time, you can use leftover cooked chicken (a supermarket rotisserie chicken works well). However, if you don’t have a cooked chicken, you can poach some breasts and/or thighs quite easily:

Poaching Chicken: Select chicken breasts or thighs with the bone-in and skin on (you’ll need about 3 large breasts to yield enough meat for the pie).  Place the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a large pot and cover with chicken stock (about 3 cups). Peel and quarter a small onion and add to the pot.  Add a sprig of fresh sage and two sprigs of time.  Cover and simmer gently on medium-low heat (don’t bring to a hard boil).  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, or until the meat is just past pink.

Use tongs to remove the cooked chicken from the broth.  Let the chicken cool on a cutting board and bring the stock to a hard boil for five minutes.  While the stock is boiling, remove the chicken skin and discard. Use two forks to pull the meat from the bones and chop it into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Place cooked meat in the casserole dish (as directed in the recipe below). Strain the stock and use the reserved stock in the recipe.  Extra stock can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3-1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken meat (white, dark or a combination – see above for instructions on how to poach chicken)
  • 1-1/2 cups cubed red potatoes (cut into 1/2″ cubes) – no need to peel them
  • 5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roots trimmed and cut into thin rings
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed OR homemade pastry to cover a casserole dish

White Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add cubed potatoes to a large saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them. Cover the pot and heat on high until the water comes to a boil.  Cook the potatoes until just tender (do not overcook), about 12 to 14 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, add the butter and heat on medium-high until melted. Add the sliced leeks.  Sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped thyme and sage and cook for another minute.
  4. Remove the leeks from the heat and spoon into an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the potatoes and chopped chicken and set aside while preparing the white sauce.
  5. To make the white sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the flour-butter mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Whisk in the chicken stock and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add the milk, a half-cup at a time, whisking continuously.  Let cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream.  Cook for another couple of minutes.  Season with salt to taste.
  8. To Assemble the Pie: Pour the white sauce over the potatoes, leeks and chicken that are in the casserole dish. Stir to combine. Roll out the thawed puff pastry dough (or other dough) to fit the top of the casserole dish. Lay the pastry over the top of the casserole dish and use a knife to make a few slashes in the top so steam can escape.
  9. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 F or until the top is puffed and golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Bon Appétit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Cock-a-Leekie Pie with a green salad

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


Hearty Stracciatella-Style Soup

15 11 2010

This Stracciatella-style soup is heartier than the traditional version with the addition of chicken, winter vegetables and rice.

It’s no secret that I love to make soups.  I have featured a number of soup recipes, from a quick and simple Peppery Leek and Potato to a more complex Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers.  They’re the perfect antidote to cool, rainy days and nothing is more welcoming than walking into a home with an aromatic soup simmering on the stove.

Stracciatella is a simple Italian egg-drop soup (ie. a beaten egg is dropped into the broth as it cooks).  This recipe is a heartier version, designed to be a meal on its own.  It features seasonal vegetables, chicken and a bit of rice.  No, it’s not traditional (hence the title ‘Stracciatella-Style’) but it is delicious. For a more authentic version, check out Mario Batali’s recipe: Roman-Style Egg-Drop Soup: La Stracciatella.

A note about spinach: You can always use fresh spinach but to be honest, I find frozen spinach easier to work with if I’m using larger amounts in cooked dishes. Frozen chopped spinach should be easy to find in the frozen vegetable section of any supermarket.

Hearty Stracciatella-Style Soup

Makes about 7-1/2 to 8 cups

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large (about 8 to 10 oz. / 225 to 280 grams each) bone-in chicken breasts with skin on
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only), equals about 1 large leek
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup (packed) thawed frozen chopped spinach or cooked fresh spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6-1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup raw long grain rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (packed) grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with a pinch of salt and ground pepper.  In a large soup pot or enameled cast iron pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high.
  2. Add the chicken, skin side down, and sauté until browned, about five minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Do not drain the oil from the pot.
  3. Add the chopped leeks, parsley, thawed spinach and nutmeg.  Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes.
  4. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken stock (reserve the last 1/4 cup for the eggs) and add the rice.  Return the chicken to the pot.  Cover and let the soup simmer gently (not a hard boil) for 25 minutes.
  5. While the soup is simmering, beat two eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of parmesan until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  6. After 25 minutes, remove the chicken breasts from the soup.  Remove the skin and discard.  Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone.  Discard the bones and chop the chicken meat into bite sized pieces.  Return the chopped chicken to the soup.
  7. Pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, whisking vigorously.  Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer, whisking occasionally for five minutes.  Don’t be alarmed if the soup begins to look curdled – that’s how it’s supposed to look as the eggs cook.
  8. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish each serving with grated parmesan and chopped Italian parsley.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Mussels with Leek-Cream Sauce

11 11 2010

Mussels make an easy, versatile and inexpensive meal.

A feast of mussels is one of the cheapest and easiest meals you can make.  For less than $10 and 15 minutes of your time, you can have a big pile of tasty mussels to share.  Serve with fresh bread or toast to mop up the delicious sauce.

Preparing Mussels for Cooking

Many of the mussels found in Canada and the U.S. come from Prince Edward Island. They should be easy to find at fish markets and the fish department of most grocery stores. They’re very easy to cook, however, there are a few guidelines to follow for safe handling:

  • Discard any mussels with cracked or broken shells.
  • Rinse the mussles in cold water and pluck off any ‘beards’ that are present on the shell. The ‘beard’ is a moss-like growth that keeps the mussel attached when it is growing in the water. Soak the mussels for about 15 minutes in a large bowl of cold water to ensure they are clean and free of grit.
  • Make sure all mussel shells are tightly closed before cooking. If a shell is slightly open, give it a light tap on a hard surface – if it doesn’t close up, the mussel may be dead and it should be discarded.
  • Mussels need to steam for about 10 minutes to fully cook and their shells will open once they’re done. Inspect cooked mussels before serving and throw away any that do not open. Do not force closed shells open – this is an indication that the mussel is dead and may cause illness if consumed.

Mussels in a Leek Cream Sauce

Makes about 50 mussels

This recipe should make plenty for two to four people (depending on whether it’s a starter or main).  You can easily double or triple the recipe if you have a big enough pot.

  • 2 lbs. (907 g) mussels, cleaned and inspected (see instructions above)
  • 4 medium or 3 large leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped thyme or parsley to garnish – optional
  1. Trim the leeks of any roots and tough green tops. Slice them lengthwise down the middle and run under cold water to ensure any sand is rinsed from their layers. Pat the leeks dry and cut into thin ‘rings’, about ¼” thick.
  2. In a large stockpot with a lid, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped leeks and let cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and let cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in the wine and stir the tomato paste into the mixture until thoroughly combined. Dump in the cleaned mussels.
  4. Put the lid on the pot and let the mussels steam for 10 minutes. Check on them after 10 minutes and if a lot of the shells are still closed, let them steam for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove pot lid and stir in the cream. Discard any shells that haven’t opened. Season with salt and pepper and pour the mussels and sauce into a large bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley or thyme if desired.
  6. Serve the mussels with fresh toast or bread to mop up the sauce or with homemade frites, if you’re feeling ambitious.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite

Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

8 05 2009


Wild Leeks - also known as ramps - at the market

Wild Leeks - also known as ramps - at the market


The season for wild leeks (aka ramps) is in full swing at the moment.  These delicious, pungent plants taste like a mix of onion and garlic.  They are becoming increasingly popular as cooks discover their unique flavour and versatility.  Ramps can be cooked in countless ways including in soups, roasted, grilled, sautéed or pickled.  They won’t be available much longer so seek them out soon if you’d like to give them a try.  They can be found throughout Eastern Canada and the U.S. and are very popular in West Virginia.  Check with farmer’s market or independent grocers – large supermarket chains are not likely to have them.

This gratin is a great way to try ramps for the first time.  They add a unique flavour to the dish but green onions and garlic can be used if you can’t find ramps.

Click here to check out the recipe on Suite 101:  Potato and Wild Leek Gratin.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!


Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

1 12 2008


It’s hard to believe it’s already December.  It seems like yesterday that the markets were bursting with an abundance of fresh vegetables.  As fall comes to a close and Christmas draws near, the weather is grey and cool and our fresh vegetable choices are more limited.  Leeks are one of my favourite fall/winter vegetables and a peppery leek and potato soup is the perfect comfort dish for a dreary afternoon. Not only is it delicious, but it’s very easy to prepare AND it’s quite low in fat.   What more could you ask for in a soup?

Potato and leek soup is a pretty standard recipe but what makes my version a little different is the addition of a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  You can adjust it to your own tastes but I think it gives a bit of a kick to a dish that might otherwise be a bit bland.  Use a pepper mill to coarse grind whole peppercorns. If you don’t have a pepper mill, you can crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

Makes about 7 cups


  • 4 leeks
  • 3 russet medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1″ dice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock OR vegetable stock
  • 3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt, to taste

Optional Garnish:

  • 3″ piece of leek (cut from the white part)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • More pepper
  1. Trim roots and green stalks from the leeks.  Slice each leek lengthwise down the middle.  Carefully wash all the layers of the leeks, making sure any sand and grit are removed.  If they are very dirty, soak them briefly in cold water.  Dry well and chop into half-rings.   Remember to reserve a 3″ piece for the garnish.
  2. In a stockpot or enameled cast iron pot, heat butter on medium heat.  Add leeks and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Watch carefully as they can burn quite easily.  Add 1 teaspoon of the pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Add potato pieces and stir into leeks.  Add chicken stock.  Cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
  4. After simmering, check to ensure the potatoes are very tender.  Remove from heat and let the soup cool a bit.  Very carefully puree soup with a hand blender or regular blender until completely smooth.
  5. Return soup to the pot and heat until gently simmering.  Add remaining pepper and stir through.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve with Garnish (see below) and a generous amount of fresh ground pepper.


  1. Cut leek piece into rings.  Heat butter in a small skillet or saucepan.  Add leeks and sauté until crispy, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and place a spoonful of garnish on each serving.


Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Leek and Ham Tart

26 10 2008


Leeks at Jean Talon Market, Montreal

Leeks at Jean Talon Market, Montreal

Leeks are a member of the onion and garlic family and in fact, they resemble giant green onions.  They are milder in flavour than yellow or white onions and when cooked, have a delicate texture and taste.  Leeks were in great abundance at the markets last week so they should be easy to find at farmer’s markets and at the supermarket. 

The edible part of the leek is the white part, with the root and green leaves trimmed off.  Leeks have many layers and need to be cleaned carefully.  To clean them, trim roots and greens and slice the leeks lengthwise down the middle.  Soak in a bowl of cold water to ensure all of the layers are free of sand and grit.  Rinse with cold water, dry and chop as needed. 

This recipe is for a leek tart (or quiche, if you’d prefer) and makes an excellent dish for breakfast or lunch. You could round it out with a light salad and fresh fruit or some croissants and imagine you’re in a cosy French cafe.  

A note about the cream: For the custard to have the proper texture, heavy cream works best.  You can certainly substitute lighter cream, milk or evaporated milk but it will have not have the same consistency. Clearly when it’s made with cream it’s not for everyday but it does make an impressive dish for special occasions!  For vegetarians, leave out the ham.

Leek and Ham Tart

Makes one 9″ tart

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)

  • 3 medium leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the branches and chopped OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream 
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) chopped cooked ham (about 4 slices)
  • 1/2 cup (2.5 oz / 75 g) grated swiss cheese (gruyère or emmenthal) OR white cheddar cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 uncooked pie crust, to fit a 9″ pie or tart pan
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a skillet, heat butter until melted.  Add chopped leeks and thyme.  Sauté on medium heat until leeks have softened, about 10 minutes (watch carefully because they can burn quite easily).  Place in a bowl and let cool.
  3. Roll out pie crust to fit a 9″ tart pan or pie plate.  Crimp edges so it looks decorative.  Use a fork to prick a few small holes in the bottom of the crust.  Bake crust for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, cream, cheese, ham and cooled leek mixture.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Season with fresh ground black pepper.
  5. Pour egg mixture into pie crust.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until custard has set in the middle and the top is beginning to brown.  
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!


Leek and Ham Tart with a green salad

Leek and Ham Tart with a green salad