Being Irish I love potatoes. They can be boiled, fried, sauteed, mashed, or added to just about any dish – I am easily pleased, LOL. Imagine my delight when I discovered Potato Leek soup! Flavored simply with onions, salt, and pepper, it is a potato lovers’ dream come true. I have altered it slightly over the years to include fresh herbs, but the basic recipe is the same as the first one I had so many years ago. I hope you love it as much as I do!
This is the first recipe of two weeks of holiday recipes – dishes I have made over the years that I love and have always been big hits at my parties. Some will be really simple, like today’s recipe, and others may be more complex, but all of them are delicious. I hope you enjoy my selection!
I served this soup recently at a dinner party and everyone asked for the recipe. This is so easy to make, I am almost hesitant to share it because everyone will be making it. But of course I am sharing it because that’s what this blog is all about! This recipe has been part of my family’s menu plan for over 30 years, and with fingers crossed, will be for another 30! Hopefully the next generation will take this one on for another lifetime!
A leek looks like a large green onion, but is very mild in flavor. You can used them in place of onions in any recipe. The dark green tops are very tough and virtually inedible, but they have great flavor and can be used to flavor soups and stocks. You could also use them in place of sliced onions to create a “platform” to rest roasting chicken or other meats on. They would help flavor the drippings and help protect the bottom from overcooking.
Potatoes have gotten a bad rap over the years. They are actually very healthy for you – it’s all the yummy things we add to them that are unhealthy! High in Potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 as well as a good source of fiber, they are naturally fat free. When cooked and seasoned simply, potatoes can certainly be included in anyone’s diet – even if they are watching their weight!
This would be a great recipe to have your children help with. They can peel the potatoes, wash the leeks, measure out the ingredients and of course their favorite part will be smashing the potatoes! When you get children involved in cooking, they are much more excited about eating their creations. What a wonderful way to help shape their future diet choices!
If you have ever eaten a bowl of Vichyssoise (cold potato soup), this soup is very similar, but served hot. Other recipes for Potato Leek soup are cooked with a base of chicken stock. Not mine. I use a water base which allows the pure flavor of the potatoes to shine. It is naturally vegetarian, I use a little butter to saute the leeks and finish it with a little sour cream. But if you want a vegan option, just replace those with olive oil and a dairy-free product or leave out entirely.
When it is cold and wet outside, warm up with this ultimate comfort food. Serve it with a sliced baguette or other rustic bread for a filling and soul satisfying go to meal.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you can’t find leeks in your grocery store, you can use onions instead. Try to find the mildest onions available. I often use onions to supplement if I can’t find enough leeks for the recipe. Shallots are terrific, but it would take a whole bowl of them! A blend of all three is also delicious!
Kitchen Skill: Cleaning Leeks
Leeks are grown in sandy soil and collect copious amounts of sediment as they grow. To clean them, trim off all the dark green leaves (you can use these to flavor stocks but they are too tough to eat) and discard.
Split the leek lengthwise in half, cutting through the light green portion only. The white portion grows too tightly together to collect sediment. Rinse leeks well under running water, separating the leaves to remove as much grit and dirt as possible. Even though you may think you have gotten all the dirt, still follow the recipe’s direction to soak in a bowl of water after slicing.
- 4 to 6 large leeks, trimmed and sliced (see Kitchen Skill above)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup hot water
- 8 cups cold water
- 2 to 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp minced fresh basil or 2 tsp dried (thyme, oregano, and rosemary are also good choices)
- 1 bay leaf, optional
- 6 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/3 cup sour cream, heavy cream, or half and half, optional
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper, preferably white pepper
- Basil oil, optional
- Freshly minced chives
- French baguette or other rustic bread, sliced
- Fill a large bowl with cool water. Slice leeks into rings and place in water. Swish around to release any grit and dirt. Set the bowl aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Impurities will settle to the bottom and the leeks will float.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Very carefully scoop out the leeks (use your hands) and transfer to the pot. If you don’t agitate the water too much, the grit will be left at the bottom of the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until leeks have wilted. Stir in flour and continue cooking 3 to 5 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat as needed to keep onions from browning.
- Gradually stir in the cup of hot water, blending flour to a paste. Add 2 cups of the cool water, stirring until smooth. Stir in remaining water. Add salt, herbs, bay leaf, and potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and gently boil about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Place sour cream in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the soup liquid and whisk until smooth. Add sour cream mixture to soup and stir well. Add pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove bay leaf and discard. Using a slotted spoon, potato masher, or flat whisk, smash a portion of the potatoes to thicken soup. Leave a lot whole for a rustic soup or puree completely if desired. For a really smooth soup, pass through a food mill or strainer to remove most of the solids.
- Ladle into large soup bowls, drizzle with basil oil if using, garnish with chives, and serve with sliced bread. This soup is wonderful the following day, so make a day ahead and reheat over very low heat, stirring regularly, or use the microwave.
- Yield: 6 to 10 servings