Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Leek & Potato Soup

The mission of late has been clearing the freezer, which is harder than it should be. I am a great one for putting something in without having an actual plan for taking it out again and so most things never again see the light of day. I confess my starting point every week for menu plan is definitely more oooh, I know what I fancy  and I go from there, seldom thinking hmm, I have x or y so I shall make this or that and it will be lovely. I don't lack the skill so much as the inclination.

I've done okay with it, using some of the big and obvious things and then found a couple of chicken carcasses that I froze for stock which never happened.  So I dragged them all out, tossed them in a pot with the usual aromatic suspects and simmered me up a fine pot of flavoured broth. Thoroughly brilliant to this point, I feel. Trouble is I had no immediate use for three and a half litres of chicken stock Decanted to clean milk cartons it simply used more space than the original bones. Hmmm.

Ooooh, I thought, winter cries out for soup and good soup needs good stock so I shall simply perform a little alchemy and make me some soup. Even had some (frozen) cream that needed using. I quite fancied something simple and soothing, using winter veg. I toyed with the idea of broccoli but went off it before I got any further and regretfully rejected cauliflower because I'd had a couple of cauliflower things recently. Had almost decided on curried parsnip when I read about leeks and their lush versatility. Decided on leek and potato soup, something I've not made for years.

Step one, I confess, was putting a couple of litres of stock in the freezer, but with luck it will be risotto or similar within the month. Step two was to take myself off to Brixton Market for some lovely fat leeks and a few potatoes. When I've made it previously I always stir chopped veg through a little melted butter then add stock and simmer for an hour or so till everything is softly approaching mush then blend it till smoothish and add cream or cheese. I like it for its almost generic gentleness but I must confess I'd be hard pressed, if blindfolded, to identify the actual soup. Which is a shame given leeks ability to add a complexity of flavour to the soothing blanket that is pureed potato. Thinking it through I decided it was probably the lengthy simmer that was doing me no favours.

I started at the same point as always, melting butter and coating roughly chopped potato and leek but, instead of adding the stock and leaving it I turned the heat low and covered the veg with a circle of greaseproof paper before putting on the lid. The vegetables steamed gently for about 15 minutes till they'd softened but, crucially, still retained all their lovely flavour. Once the stock was added and simmering it was only five minutes or so to finish the cooking. Quick blitz, stirred in the cream and soup was done, a gorgeous textured liquid tasting wonderfully of leeks. Not just faster, better!

Leek & Potato Soup

I confess this makes a lot of soup, but it freezes well! And indeed that's where some of mine ended up...

50g butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
7 or 8 large leeks - about 2cm in diameter - washed and cut into 1 cm rings, both white and green
1kg floury potatoes, washed but no need to peel, diced into 1cm cubes
1.5 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
About a quarter of a nutmeg, finely grated
250ml cream
1 egg per serving - optional

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the garlic, leeks and potato. Stir to coat well then cover the vegetables with a circle of greaseproof paper then put the lid on the pan and turn the heat to very low.  Leave the vegetables to simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender. Discard the paper and add the stock, increasing the heat to medium. When it comes to the boil, season and then turn the heat down and simmer for five minutes. Take the soup off the heat and puree either with an immersion stick or blender till smooth. Add the grated nutmeg and cream and stir through till well combined.

At the Canton the other night I noticed they had leek and potato soup on the menu, with a poached duck egg added. Could not resist trying that. The yolk added a golden richness to the soup, quite a delight on a cold winter night.

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