Cider and leek soup with clams, cockles and quail’s eggs

Cider and leek soup with clams, cockles and quail’s eggs

British Seafood
David Loftus

This is a fantastic warming soup when there is a chill in the air. I usually make a big cauldron of it, adding as many different shellfish as I can get my hands on, and let everyone tuck in and help themselves. The deep-fried quail’s eggs aren’t essential but they do give the soup a special finishing touch.


Quantity Ingredient
500g live clams, cleaned, (see note)
500g live cockles, cleaned, (see note)
light rapeseed oil, for cooking
50g unsalted butter
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 leeks, washed and sliced, (white part only)
200g potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
1 litre fish stock
500ml cider
100ml double cream
cornish sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Deep-fried quail’s eggs

Quantity Ingredient
12 quail’s eggs
50g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
75g japanese panko breadcrumbs
oil, for deep-frying

Lemon, parsley and apple dressing

Quantity Ingredient
1 apple, peeled and cut into 5 mm dice
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
75ml Lemon oil

To finish

Quantity Ingredient
flat-leaf parsley, shredded


  1. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and when hot add a generous drizzle of oil and the butter. When the butter is bubbling, add the shallots and leeks with a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes until they are turning translucent. Now add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Add the fish stock and half of the cider and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Transfer the soup to a blender and blitz until smooth. Return to a clean pan and set aside.
  3. Place a large saucepan (that has a tight-fitting lid) over a medium heat. When hot, add the clams, cockles and remaining cider and put the lid on. Cook for 3 minutes until the shells have opened, then drain in a colander over a bowl to catch the liquor. When cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the shells, keeping a few clams and cockles in their shell for serving. Place in a bowl and keep cool, with the reserved liquor, until ready to serve.
  4. For the quail’s eggs, bring a pan of water to a simmer, then carefully lower the eggs into it and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl of iced water and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then drain and peel the eggs. Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls. Dry the eggs thoroughly and pass them first through the flour, then the egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs. Set aside until ready to serve.
  5. For the lemon, parsley and apple dressing, combine the apple, chopped parsley and lemon oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve, heat the oil in a deep-fryer or other suitable deep, heavy pan to 180°C. Deep-fry the coated quail’s eggs for 1 minute until golden and crispy. Bring the soup to a simmer and add some of the reserved shellfish poaching liquid, to adjust the taste and the consistency to your liking. Drain the deep-fried quail’s eggs on kitchen paper and season with a little salt.
  7. Add the picked shellfish to the soup and share equally between 4 warmed bowls, or serve in a tureen. Finish the soup with the reserved clams and cockles in shells, the quail’s eggs, dressing and a sprinkling of parsley.


  • Before cooking, check the mussels are in good condition and closed. Tap any open mussels sharply – they will close up if they’re alive, otherwise discard them. Similarly throw away any mussels that have cracked or damaged shells. Pull away the hairy ‘beard’, attached to one end of the mussel. Farmed mussels should only need a quick rinse to clean them without washing away flavour, but if mussels are sandy or dirty you’ll need to give them a more thorough wash or a quick soak in cold water.

Clams and cockles

  • When you get your cockles home, it’s best to purge them in a mixture of salt and water overnight to get rid of all the sand and mud before cooking them. Make sure you throw away any that are open as they will be dead. Mature cockles for eating are generally 2–3 years old; occasionally they live to 5 years but these are a little tough to eat.
British Seafood
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