Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Green Is My Leek Soup?


When making Leek and Potato soup, I use the green, tender part of leeks along with the white.  I adore fresh colour, scent, and taste.  The leeks being under six inches of snow for a week has left them somewhat bedraggled.  Fortunately, leeks are one of those vegetables if the cold does not kill them, it makes them sweeter.

Using a spade to harvest leeks

Harvested just enough leeks for the soup

Diagonally trimmed leeks on a marble table in the garden.  When trimming roots, leave the basal plate intact

I also make sure there is no grit.  Place a leek flat on a cutting surface and put a sharp knife's tip just above the bottom root, slicing almost all the way through and past the top. Under comfortably tepid running water, splay out the strap-like leaves using your fingers to scrap/move off dirt.  I wash my home-grown leeks in this meticulous manner twice, as grit in food does not go away.  I rather not enrich the compost with my culinary endeavours!

Cutting leeks this way allows for thorough washing

Store-bought potatoes will have to do as last season's harvest has all been used.   My nursery order for spring recently arrived, and next season's harvest is sprouting, that is, chitting,  in their recycled egg cartons.  Dayo, the young tabby cat, shows his intense love for seed potatoes by licking and nibbling them.  I mercilessly broke up this torrid affair by putting them on the potting room's window sill in the sous sol.  Certified seed potatoes can be chemically treated and this affair may not be healthy for him, but he never listens to me.  When harvesting potatoes, there is no concern because the original seed potato resembles a brown prune.


Dayo confined to his box at the end of the long, food preparation table

Sous sol is not exactly interchangeable with basement.   In France, they come in various forms.  The floor of ours is flush with the back potager as our house is built on a gentle, front-facing slope.  Ours is nicely windowed, unheated, and has  lower ceilings than our living quarters above--a very clever way to divvy up domestic space, practically a vertical version of a longhouse.  

Dayo loves the huge brick barbecue in the potting room which was formerly used as a summer kitchen.  Actually, it is its chimney that intrigues him.  Via shallow ledges, he gets a few feet up it, getting cobwebs and soot on his pink nose.  When first moving here, I went on and on about our fantastic brick bread oven to Monsieur M.  He smiled wanly and said softly, but, it has no door.  Then he told me it was he who built the indoor barbecue as a favour for the previous inhabitant.

The Calm One is wary of what he calls green things in his food, and I have found smooth, creamy soups and his own choice(s) from a selection of interesting toppings aid his receptivity to the vegetable kingdom.  This soup has a medium thick consistency and makes four generous servings.  Served with croutons or French bread and Gruyère cheese, it makes a nourishing, tasty hot meal.

 Recipe for Leek and Potato Soup
  • 3 cups (around 4 medium leeks) of carefully washed, trimmed, thickly sliced (about an inch thick) leeks, including the tender green part
  • 5 medium all-purpose potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 (120 ml) cup of cream
  • 6 cups (1.4 L) of water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • one or more of the following for garnishing:  green herbs like chives, chervil, or parsley, croutons, crumbled bacon, crème fraîche, grated cheese like Parmesan or Gruyère, red pepper flakes.

The trimmings on the right are too tough and bitter to be added.

Veggies in an enamelled cast-iron pot

Put the potatoes, leeks, and water in a suitably sized lidded pot, cover, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Cook until veggies are soft, about twenty-five minutes. Turn off heat and blend with an stick/immersion mixer for the texture you like.  Add cream, gently reheat, and season to taste.  Serve with toppings of choice or au naturel.  

Topped with grated Gruyère


The soup is really a refreshing, light shade of green.  Honest!

When whipping/blending potatoes in general, use a light touch.  They can go grey and gummy if worked too long.  I pulse the soup a few times to break up big pieces, and then continuously blend not more than two minutes on high. If you don't have a stick mixer, you can use a food processor, Foley mill, potato masher, or even just a fork to give some body to the soup.

Bon appétit!

Michelle's Astuce:  If utensils having cooked potato residue are rinsed in cold water soon after use, they are much easier to wash later as an initial hot-water soaking congeals said residue into a hard mass.

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Twice-baked potatoes stuffed with leeks recipe