I understand why people use convenience foods, I really do. More than once I’ve grabbed a ready-to-heat curry or a pack of chicken Kievs in the supermarket on a cold Friday night at the end of a long week, when I feel as if I will lose the will to live if I have to go home and stand on my glacial kitchen floor and cook. And as I’ve said before, I freely admit to buying Thai curry paste and pesto rather than making my own.
But the one thing I cannot comprehend is why people buy packets of soup.
Yes, they are convenient, but they are also packed with salt, in order to disguise the fact that there is not much flavour to speak of, and they have close to no texture (watery does not count as a texture!). And although they look like a huge time-saver, they aren’t really because … making your own soup from scratch does not take that long. And (say after me, kids!) it’s easy!
I learnt the basic formula for making any vegetable soup from my late friend Peter, whose recipe for warm avocado soup has outlived him. You need about 2 cups of vegetable of your choice (which you then either steam or roast and mash), 2 cups of stock and 1-2 cups of milk depending on how creamy you like your soup. Plus of course some seasonings – but those are the basics and you don’t need to fiddle with them much to get a good soup. You also need a wand mixer, unless you a) like your soup really chunky, or b) have very strong arms to power your potato masher!
Not so intimidating after all, is it?
Seeing as we are off to South Africa for a holiday soon (woo hoo!) I am on my usual mission to use up stuff in the fridge. On Sunday night, it was the turn of two large potatoes and 2 rather antiquated leeks: doesn’t that just scream leek & potato soup to you? It did to me, and I have to say it was one of the better ones I’ve ever made. Because the potato, once mashed, adds a naturally creamy texture you can be quite virtuous with this and add little or no dairy. Or you can splurge and add double cream – it’s up to you. I garnished mine with some crispy fried leeks which were a hit both with me and Nick, and (there’s that word again) EASY!
CREAMY LEEK & POTATO SOUP WITH A CRISPY FRIED LEEK GARNISH (serves 4 as a starter)
2 large potatoes, diced
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2-3 cups chicken stock
100 ml cream or milk
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and the sliced leeks, reserving about 4 Tbsp of leek slices for the garnish. Add the potato cubes and sautee until the leeks begin to colour.
Add 2-3 cups of chicken stock (depending on how thick you like your soup) and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes until the potato cubes are soft enough to mash.
Remove from the heat, mash with a potato masher to break up the largest chunks, then add the milk or cream and blend with a wand blender until smooth enough for your liking. Add the dried thyme, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, add a little moe water. Return to low heat.
In the meantime, heat a Tbsp of olive oil over medium hight heat in a small pan. Add the reserved thinly sliced leeks and stir to break up the leek slices into strips. Watch carefully as the leeks burn easily. When they start to turn golden brown, remove from the heat and allow to cool on a piece of paper towel – they will crisp up as they cool.
Serve the soup with a garnish of crispy fried leeks and some crusty brown bread.
Elsewhere on the food blogs:
- Michelle’s also cooking leek and potato soup
- Margot’s adding spinach and mushrooms to her potato & leek soup
- Meeta’s made chestnut & potato soup
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