This ancient Celtic soup is a great way to eat your oats
Ready to eat like a Druid? Because this dish dates back millennia, to the ancient Celtic world. It was originally called Brotchán Roy (or maybe Brotchán Foltchep – opinions differ).
The flavor combination may sound unusual, but our version is delish. In fact, it tastes like cream of leek soup.
So give it a try. And decide that oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast anymore.
Recipe: Irish Leek and Oatmeal Soup
This recipe may remind you of Leek and Potato Soup. But that dish usually contains about equal amounts of leeks and potatoes. By contrast, Irish Leek and Oatmeal Soup contains just enough oatmeal to give it deep flavor and velvety texture.
There are many ways to make this dish. Most recipes call for using stock (usually chicken) and milk in equal parts. But some call for stock alone (or even just water). We use chicken stock, then finish it with heavy cream.
This recipe takes about 45 minutes to prepare. It yields 4 servings.
- 3 to 4 medium leeks (should yield about 3 cups of white and light green when chopped)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats or Irish oats (or more to taste; see Notes)
- 3½ cups chicken stock
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley (to taste)
- ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream (to taste; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (a good half dozen grinds for us)
- Clean the leeks (they can be a bit sandy, so you’ll need to wash them well): Remove the outer layers if they’re wilted. Cut off the tops of the leeks where they turn from light green to a deeper shade. Then cut off the tip ends of the roots, keeping enough so that the leaves remain attached. Slice the leeks into quarters lengthwise, keeping a bit of the root end intact so the leaves don’t separate. Wash the leeks under cold running water, separating each leaf so the water can rinse away any sand or dirt. When the leeks are clean, shake them dry, then cut them into slices of ¼ inch or a bit less (discard the root ends).
- Melt the butter in a 4-quart cooking pot over medium heat. When the butter is hot and bubbly, add the chopped leeks. Season to taste with salt, then sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the oats, then sauté for another minute (stirring often).
- Add the chicken stock. Simmer the mixture until the oats are tender (about 30 minutes).
- Meanwhile, wash and dry the parsley, then mince it (you may want to reserve a bit of parsley for garnish).
- After the soup has cooked for 30 minutes, taste to make sure the oatmeal is thoroughly cooked (and continue cooking if not). Then add the cream and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste again, adding more salt if necessary. Add the black pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley, then cook for an additional minute.
- Serve and enjoy. (You may want to sprinkle some chopped parsley over each bowl as garnish.)
- Simmering the soup for 30-plus minutes helps develop the flavor. It also cooks the oats thoroughly. So you don’t want to use “instant” or “quick” oats – they’ll turn to mush.
- Irish oatmeal is steel-cut (which gives it good texture) and it has a nutty flavor. Old-fashioned “rolled” oats have less texture (but are still quite good). Either type of oatmeal works in this dish.
- You can use more oatmeal than we suggest if you want a thicker, heartier soup.
- You could also use less liquid than we suggest (our recipe makes a brothy soup, which we like).
- Leeks have a wonderful, distinctive flavor (and they’re traditional in this dish). We suppose you could substitute onions (we haven’t tried that), but the overall flavor and character of the dish would be different (although probably still good). If you use onions, we suggest cooking them until they’re translucent (5 to 8 minutes) in Step 2.
- We like to finish this dish with heavy cream. But you could skip that and instead make this using a mixture of half chicken stock and half milk. Just remember that milk curdles if heated too quickly (and can burn easily), so keep the heat to just below a simmer.
- A light beef or lamb broth would probably also work well in this recipe (lamb or mutton broth would have been common in this dish back in the day).
- Or you could just substitute water, which may have been the original liquid used to make the dish.
- Nutmeg would make an excellent addition to this soup. Add it in Step 3.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- “Brotchán” translates as soup or broth. “Roy” probably derives from the Irish word for king. So the name of this dish might have meant “soup fit for a king.”
- BTW, there probably has never been a set recipe for this soup. Cooks likely have altered quantities to suit their tastes, and substituted whatever ingredients they had on hand.
- So what about those Druids? They served as leaders in the ancient Celtic world (their history dates back at least to the 4th century BCE). They flourished in what is today France, Britain, and Ireland.
- Some Druids were literate, but they mostly relied on oral teaching. So there is much we don’t know about them – it’s been lost to history.
- We do know that many Druids were highly influential civil and religious leaders, often functioning as healers, legal professionals, political advisors, and priests. They seem to have played a particularly important role in Irish mythology.
- Some of the traditions we still follow today (hanging mistletoe, for example) derive from ancient Druid customs.
- There’s even an opera about Druids: Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, our resident operaholic, highly recommends it. (For more info about the opera, you can read all about it in our Pasta alla Norma post. And also read about the pasta dish named after the opera.)
“Take a leek,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And add oatmeal, of all things. Who knew?”
“Giddyup,” I said. “Makes me feel my oats.”
“You’re horsing around again,” said Mrs K R.
“Don’t be an old nag,” I said.
“This soup really is a horse of a different color,” said Mrs K R.
“Or flavor,” I said. “Perfect for a stallion like me!”
“I’m afraid you’re ready to be put out to pasture, old boy,” said Mrs K R. “Too ancient to sow wild oats.”
Guess I won’t be letting my inner Druid moon child out tonight.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Leek and Potato Soup
Pasta alla Norma
Curried Corn and Shishito Soup
Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Cuban-Style Black Bean Soup
Vegan Mulligatawny Soup with Cabbage
Red Beans and Rice Soup
Bean and Cabbage Soup
Or check out the index for more
Hi R, good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have never had oats prepared this way...how fascinating and it looks so delicious too, John.
Hi Angie, oats are terrific in soup! Who knew? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love leek soup, but the one with oatmeal is so new to me, I love this idea! So unique!
Hi Natalia, isn't this a fun dish? The flavor is excellent! Thanks for the comment.
Great to think about beautiful Ireland this week. I resurrected a post from a long-ago trip to remind me of better times. It's all pretty bad for the moment... keep well!
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Once again I am laughing at the puns!
I am not sure if I like the way this looks or sounds, but out of morbid curiosity I am going to have to make this!
Hi Mae, yeah, the curse of "interesting times." :-( Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, if you like leeks and oatmeal, bet you'll like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I can almost imagine how good this taste as I am fan of savory oats.
Hi Balvinder, savory oats are SO good, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
I love this! It is such a unique soup and I'm always up to try something new, thanks
Hi Dahn, isn't this a fun dish? And SO good! Thanks for the comment.
It's amazing what the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and British people do with oats! Even desserts! This soup looks wonderful.
Hi Mimi, oats can be pretty versatile, can't they? And they SO good in savory dishes! Thanks for the comment.
I've never had a soup with oats before. It looks and sounds tasty.
Hi Pam, oats should be much more popular in soup than they are! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh no, Kitchen Riffs got you good in the end! I actually love the sound of the soup with oatmeal and I approve on the use of heavey cream :-D
Hi Evelyne, LOL! We always approve of heavy cream. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Since I am not a potato lover but have made Potage Parmentier/Vichissoise all my life . . . what a great alternative to try ! Shall as soon as such is available on the supermarket shelves ! Australia has lost its head on panic buying . . .
Hi Eha, a lot of panic buying, here too. :-( Thanks for the comment.
It's funny, I've never thought of oatmeal in a savory role, but this sounds really wonderful, John. And anything that includes leeks, butter and cream is off to a great start in my book!
Hi Terry, yeah, leeks, butter, and cream is a tough combo to beat. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a creative spin! I love the idea of a hearty soup. Hope you've been holding up well with the craziness these past couple of weeks, John!
John,your punishing me with your puns. Seriously, your puns in this post might just be your best. Keep them coming, as well as your wonderful recipes.
Perhaps many people don't realize how important savory porridges and grain soups were in the ancient daily diet. It was the foundation of the Scandinavian diet until the potato arrived. Then we started mixing the two as well. We just mad a big batch of leek and potato soup, but I never though of adding oats. I will be trying your Irish Leek and Oatmeal Soup when I make my next batch.
strangely i only recently discovered that hubby doesn't like leeks! you could have knocked me over with a feather:) well i guess you could use french shallots and spring onions instead. good use of oats!
John, I've seen some recipes for savory oats around, but your recipe for this ancient dish is by far the most tempting one I've seen! I love leeks and the other ingredients in this too. My curiosity is piqued and I will have to try it! I always love the history in your posts! :)
Hi Ala, it's been really crazy, hasn't it? Much more to come, I'm afraid. :-( But soothing soup helps! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, you'll like oats in this, promise. Really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sherry, I've seen recipes for this that use spring onions. They work really well in this, so your idea of combining them with shallots sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, we do enjoy researching new things for our posts. :-) And you'll enjoy this soup! It's fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Brilliant John! Way to go with being creative with those pantry staples. We so need to try this but currently only have instant oats so maybe I won't put them in until a little later in the recipe. Use what you have, right? Take Care and stay well dear friend.
Hi Bobbi, probably adding instant oats right at the end would work. Worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm pretty sure I've never seen a soup made with oatmeal. What a cool and unique recipe!
Hi Laura, fun, huh? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love recipes like this that come with a history.
Hi Lea Ann, we do, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Those Irish really know how to stretch most ingredients in unexpected ways. Necessity I suppose. GREG
so ready to eat this soup ! What a wonderful recipe!!
Hi Greg, they did. But in good, unexpected ways. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ansh, we're ready to make it again! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love a soup like this but my better half won’t touch it. Do you have shelter in place where you live. We do and I am ready to try our all your cocktail recipes.
Hi Gerlinde, more for you that way! We don't have official shelter in place, but we're basically doing it. And it'd be fun to try out all the cocktail recipe. Alcohol kills germs, right? Thanks for the comment.
This would have been perfect for St. Pat's day here (except I have no leeks and no cream). I do have at least two containers of oatmeal. As we move forward with our distancing maybe I could modify this with yellow onions (which I also have on hand)! Stay safe and thanks for another way to eat your oatmeal!
Hi Debra, we haven't made this with yellow onions, but I think it'd work. Different flavor than leeks, of course, but similar enough. I think I'd slowly cook the onions in loads of butter, and not let them brown at all. In fact I need to try that version of this dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a very interesting soup. Looking at it, I thought it was leek and potato, so the oatmeal was a real surprise. We love love love leeks and they are so plentiful and big this time of year. Going to need to give this a try. Quite different from our normal soups. Thanks for sharing John!
Hi MJ, a couple of years ago we went looking for soup recipes that use oatmeal, and this is the best we found. It's really wonderful -- think you'll enjoy it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, what a beautiful bowl of soup! I love leeks and make leek and potato soup, but I've never even heard of leek and oatmeal soup--I'm very excited about this! Pinning.
Hi Jean, bet you'll like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow, this looks and sounds really good. And I'm not even that big on oatmeal, but i bet I'd actually like it in this dish. Will definitely give it a go!
Hi Frank, the oatmeal really works in this dish. It's an interesting flavor combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Although I've made a few savory oat porridge recipes, I've never thought to add oats to a soup like this. What a genius idea! I like how it adds such great body, too.
Hi Carolyn, this is SO worth trying. I've been thinking of an Asian-themed variation of this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow! I've never heard of a soup with oatmeal in it before -- it looks really tasty! What a unique soup!
Hi Amy, this is unique, isn't it? Good, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sounds delicious! I love the idea of thickening with oats. Can't wait to give it a try.
Hi Lisa, we're scheming about other soups we can make with oats. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Okay, this has got to be one of the more interesting recipes I have read this week! Christina’s Cucina posted an oatmeal recipe recently and - guess what? They are hoarding oatmeal, too! When it comes back in I will try both recipes! Thanks, John. Great puns this week!
PS - In your shout out on C&L, I initially forgot to add a live link to KR. It’s there now!
Hi David, this is really worth trying -- you'll like. When you can get oatmeal again, of course! Thanks for the comment.
I've never heard of a soup like this. I'm intrigued and it seems like it's a good time to try it. Thanks! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, this is a really good time to play in the kitchen! Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, you too! Thanks for the comment.
OMG, a savory oatmeal soup...I always like savory oatmeal soup and often people find it strange when I tell them about it...I am loving the leeks and the cream in it...lovely meal!
Hi Juliana, oatmeal is great in savory dishes! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This soup looks so scruptious.
Love this soup, John! So cool to use oatmeal in a savory dish! Can't wait to try it!
Hi Priya, it is, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelly, it's a bit different, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never heard of a soup like this one! It's so interesting. I will definitely give this one a try substituting vegetable broth.
Hi Judee, it's a fun soup! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Creating a homemade soup with just 8 ingredients is really brilliant and I love the rich and tasty flavors!
Hi Heidi, the flavor in this are awesome! Really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is such a fun and cozy soup for Fall... and the oats give it a hearty undertone that makes it a meal all by itself!
Hi Heidi, it's good, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
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