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 .

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Leeks Quiche

Don’t let the length of this recipe fool you. It’s a rather standard quiche: “Goat Cheese and _______” and it’s really not difficult. If you – like me – detest making crusts, just use a frozen store-bought. I have too much pride to do this, so I suffer through the process, bitching and moaning the whole time, but I sure don’t blame you if you opt out to make your life easy.

Other than salt and pepper, I don’t use many herbs or spices in this dish because the flavors of the leeks combined with the texture of the warm goat cheese are so rich already, I try not to distract from them.

Some good alterations include replacing the leeks and shallots with crispy, chopped, brown sugar cured bacon, thinly sliced raw chives, sliced (and maybe roasted?) heirloom tomatoes. Also, you can use any kind of goat cheese. I used herbed, but plain would be just fine, as well as peppered (the peppered would be great if you replaced the leeks and shallots with tomatoes!).

(Don’t forget, this is also great for those individually sized dishes that are so cute and fun!)

For crust:

  • 2 C. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. oil

  1. Mix together dry ingredients, and whisk to aerate.
  2. Add in liquids and mix until forms a dough ball.
  3. Roll out and put into a 9” pie or tart pan, per-bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.
  4. Take out and set aside.

For the Filling:

  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3T butter
  • 1t butter
  • 2 ¼ t brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 C. milk
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese (herbed or plain)
  • Salt and Pepper

  1. Caramelize the shallots:
    • Melt 1t of butter on medium heat in a small sauté pan.
    • When melted, add shallots and salt generously.
    • When warmed, add ¾t of brown sugar and stir.
    • *watch the heat closely to keep the sugar from burning!
    • Cook on medium to medium-low heat until soft brown, app. 5 minutes.
    • Take off heat and set aside.
  2. Caramelize the leeks:
    • Melt 3T butter in larger sauté pan.
    • When melted, add leeks and salt and pepper generously (the shallots are a more delicate flavor, which is why I omit the pepper for them).
    • When warmed, add 1½ teaspoons of brown sugar and stir.
    • Continue the same as the shallots.
    • Take off heat and combine with shallots.
  3. Do the eggs and put it together:
    • Combine 4 eggs, 2 yolks (save the whites to make some meringue cookies for dessert!), milk, salt and pepper and whisk.
    • Add leeks and shallots and mix gently.
    • Crumble goat cheese into egg and milk mixture, reserving just enough to spread on the bottom of the crust.
    • Spread some goat cheese on the bottom of the par-baked crust and pour in the filling, using a small spoon to evenly distribute the leeks, shallots and crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.
  5. Stuff your face.