Sops & Leeks: Medieval Comfort Food

We all know what leeks are: the perfect mild blend of their cousins, garlic and onion. They’ve been part of our diet since somewhere around 2000 BC in Egypt, they’re one of the official emblems of Wales (wearing one on your helmet in battle identifies you as a fellow countryman) and for their easy re-usability to grow, regrow, and keep growing through less than ideal weathers, they’re a great produce for peasants. So what about “sops”? The word “sop” has become a common place verb now; i.e.: using bread to “sop” up the remaining sauce. And that’s what “sops” are: pieces of crusty (usually stale) bread, in the bottom of a bowl or plate, used to soak up (or “sop”) the juices and sauces and flavors from everything else in the bowl.

This particular recipe was a common one among monks during lent. However, since it includes white wine and white bread, it was certainly not for the poorer monks. These were more expensive items to produce and no – not all monasteries have/had the same resources.

The original medieval recipe of Sops and Leeks does not call for ham, chili flake or cream, but as long as you’re not a monk during lent, this updated recipe is great to elevate a medieval dish while still keeping it fairly true to form.

I like to use it for lunch or as a dinner side paired with simple roasted chicken. Including the poached eggs could make it a great addition to a creative brunch menu.

Ingredient Quantity How
Leeks

2

White and greens, sliced and washed
Butter

2-3

Tbsp
White wine

1/4

cup
Heavy cream

1/2

cup

Ham

3/4

cup

Cut into cubes
Red Chili Flake

1

tsp

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

1/4

cup

(optional)
“Sops” (thick sliced crusty bread, buttered)

4

Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. On stove top, heat dutch oven (preferably) or cast iron pan with deep sides, add butter until sizzling, then add leeks and ham. Allow leeks to just soften, about 2 minutes, then add white wine and cook until just soft.
  2. Add cream and red chili flake. Reduce heat to a simmer; allow to simmer until cream is very thick and no longer has any “soupy” quality.
  3. While cooking cream down, butter both sides of slices of crusty (traditionally stale) bread.
  4. Once cream has thickened and you have a pot of creamy leeks, top with toasted bread and bake in 400 oven until butter on bread is just browned. Feel free to top with optional parmesan cheese at this step.
  5. Remove, flip leeks and bread so bread is on the bottom and serve immediately, hot out of the pot and topped with soft boiled egg, if desired .