Soup is always a winner. Back home in Barcelona, when I lived with my parents, we would have soup every night for dinner. In Summer we would typically have gazpacho, in Winter there would be more options: carrot, pumpkin, mushrooms or leek soup were the usuals. To make the soups creamy I like to follow what I learnt at home, no cream or milk needed, instead: gentle cooking, a good base and proper blending. For all the Winter soups the base is usually the same: onion + potato + X, where X is the main character of the soup, in this case, the leeks.
Leeks, or Allium ampeloprasum va. porrum, are a type of vegetable considered to be between garlic and onion (they all come from the same botanical genus: Allium). Apparently, it is a variety grown from the oriental garlic, which doesn’t develop bulb or cloves.
The whiter part of the leek is usually eaten (steamed, boiled, baked or raw) while the green part and the leaves can be used as a spicy, stronger flavour for a stock or broth. Leeks are grown all year round, but the varieties and flavours differ quite a bit. In winter, leeks are normally juicier and larger in diametre, whereas in summer they tend to be thinner and have a more aromatic, lighter taste. Nutritiously speaking, they are not very rich. However, they have considerable amounts of dietary fibre, Vit A and C and are diuretic, thanks to their low sodium and high potassium levels, increasing the secretion of liquids and toxic substances through the kidneys.
Leek soup can be eaten warm but also cold. Since it is freaking cold lately, I’ve been eating eat it its warm winter cosy version. The cold version, popular thanks to the vichyssoise, is also very delicious and great (for a hot summer day). The classic vichyssoise recipe is slightly different: potatoes, leeks, chicken stock and heavy cream. Sometimes topped with chopped chives or spring onions; or Iberico ham if you’re in Spain.
The recipe for today is very simple (3 ingredients), comforting, healthy and easy to digest. It’s taken me a few times until I got it right (“right” here means with the texture and flavour I like). The hardest parts for me were:
- Not being impatient when sautéeing the ingredients. Sautée them gently to avoid any bitterness.
- Getting the solids : water ratio right. I always seemed to get it wrong! Either too thick or too thin, getting the balanced point of creaminess can be tough. One sure thing I learnt is to never use cornstarch (or any flour) to thicken, or at least never add it at the end when everything has already been blended. It will blend in well at the beginning but eventually little lumps will be created – we don’t want that when we are eating soup.
I normally make a big batch on Sunday night and use it for lunch & dinner during the week. I strongly recommend making it as it is a great time-saver during the week and it feels amazing for the body when you arrive home and it’s freezing outside!
You can eat it plain or top it with herbs, nuts or other veggies. I recommend eating it with toasted pinenuts or sunflower seeds, chopped chives, break croutons or sautéed mushrooms too. But I sometimes eat it plain, without the extras, and it’s still delicious!
I hope you try making it; if you do, let me know!
Total time: 25 mins
Notes: the quantities used allows for 5-6 individual soup servings.
- 1 white onion
- 1 potato
- 4 leeks
- 20g butter and/or 1 tbsp oil
- 1l. water or stock
- salt, white pepper, nutmeg
- Toppings: chives, black sesame seeds, sautéed mushrooms, toasted pinenuts – whatever you like really!
- In a large pot, add 20g of butter and some olive oil. Set to medium heat.
- Chop the onion and once the butter has melted, add it to the pot. Stir well so onion is well coated in the oil.
- Wash leeks and chop. I chop the white and greenish part of the leek, but not the greener part, as this could give bitterness to the soup. Once onions are soft, add leeks to the pot and stir. You can add a bit of salt here to soften the veggies, they will start “crying” (releasing their own juices). You can use the greener part (not the leaves) of the leeks later. We save veggies we won’t use in a bag in the freezer, once we have enough we prepare vegetable stock.
- Peel the potato and chop. Add to the pot and mix well.
- Add 1 litre of water, set heat to high and cover. When it reaches boiling point, reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook for 10-15 mins, until veggies are tender (test with a knife).
- Once tender, move the pot from the stove let it sit for another 10 minutes. After that, blend with a hand blender (or smoothie maker) until smooth. To make it extra silky… a trick from my mom: use a Chinese colander. Place a second clean pot on the counter, pour the blended soup through the colander and use the food blender to help you get it through to the second pot.