Comfort Food for a Rainy Day – Smooth Leek and Potato Soup

Easy Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

IMG_0060After an especially wet and muddy walk this weekend at Polesden Lacey I was in dire need of something warm and comforting to eat. Thankfully the cafe in the outside courtyard of the National Trust house was cosy and warm and their leek and potato soup proved perfect sustenance after our endeavours.

I had forgotten how delicious this classic recipe is, and this recipe is the best; very easy and no frills or added ingredients.

Another frugal student recipe winner.

I whizzed up a a couple of large of leeks and two medium potatoes and was able to use up some chicken stock. I had run out of butter so instead I sweated the leeks in olive oil, added the peeled potatoes and liquidised into the perfect creamy soup. Nigel Slater has a very interesting take on this in his book The Kitchen Diaries. He adds some leftover Parmesan rinds while the leeks and potatoes are simmering to give a cheesy, velvety version. He then removes the rinds before  the leeks and potatoes with the stock, scraping in any cheese you can get from the rind. He suggests finishing off with a handful of chopped parsley and topping with some grated Parmesan. So next time you have any leftover rind from a hunk of Parmesan, don’t throw it away, but keep until you are in the mood for soup. To complete the wholesome approach, I love to serve soup with tasty cheese scones<

NOTE: The trick to achieving a lovely smooth texture is to simmer slowly for about 40 minutes.

To serve 4

This recipe is straightforward, no-nonsense and with just four ingredients very easy to make.

  • 2 large leeks
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into dice
  • 30g butter or 3Tbs olive oil
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • fresh ground black pepper

Method

  1. Trim the leeks by removing the tip and the dark leaves at the top.
  2. Slice into rings and wash throughly in cold running water. Make sure all the layers are separated so there is no grit lurking in between.
  3. Heat the butter or oil in a heavy based pan and add the leeks. Allow to soften and stir for 8-10 minutes or so. Add the potatoes and continue to stir for another 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken stock, cover the pan with a lid and allow to simmer gently for 40 minutes, checking from time to time to make sure it is not sticking. See Note below.
  5. Remove from the heat, season with salt and a good twist of black pepper. Puree by blitzing in a blender and serve.

Note: I usually cook this in a medium sized lidded casserole and put in a low oven – about 130C- to cook. This avoids the possibility of the soup catching on the bottom which can happen if you don’t concentrate when cooking on a hob. Likewise it can be cooked in a slow cooker.

Comfort food for Rainy Days – Cauliflower cheese with crispy chorizo

Cauliflower cheese with crispy chorizo

This is a quick and easy and nutritious meal for everyone. I am currently teaching my son Jamie some easily achievable recipes for when he goes to uni in September. He tested this recipe and it worked out perfectly so now he is going to it out by making if for his girlfriend this weekend. We had it for supper with some ciabatta bread and a tomato salad. Perfect.

To serve 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 firm cauliflower
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 50g of plain white flour
  • pinch dry mustard (optional)
  • pinch paprika (optional)
  • 500ml of milk
  • 100g of mature cheddar cheese – grated
  • 50g grated Parmesan
  • 100g of diced cooking chorizo (optional)
  • 4 Tbs Parmesan for the top
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6.
  2. Wash the cauliflower and separated into equal sized florets. Bring a large saucepan of boiling water. Simmer for about eight minutes (testing after five) until cooked but still with a bite. Drain through a colander and set aside while as you make the sauce. Alternatively steam for 10 minutes or so until tender (see Tip below).
  3. To make a rich cheese sauce, melt the butter and, add the flour, mustard powder and paprika if using. Stir for a few minutes to cook out the flour. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly so that the mixture (known as a roux) absorbs all the milk before you add the next lot. When all the milk has been added let the sauce simmer for ten minutes to thicken. It should be fairly thick and smooth by this stage. If there are any remaining lumps, a good whizz with an electric hand whisk can sort this out.
  4. Add both types of cheese and allow to simmer for a further 3-4 minutes. Add a good twist of black pepper.
  5. Place the drained cauliflower into a ovenproof dish
  6. and pour the sauce over the cauliflower, making sure it is well coated.
  7. Scatter a little Parmesan on top and bake for 25  minutes.
  8. Towards the end of the cooking time, fry the chorizo bits over a gentle heat in a frying pan until they are golden brown and cooked through.This should take around 4-5 minutes.
  9.  When the cauliflower is bubbling and golden, remove from the oven and serve with the chorizo bits scattered on top.

TIP: Steaming small amounts of vegetables is the best way of preserving the nutrients and helps keep the texture. We have a very nifty and space saving collapsible steamer basket. You can get them in shops like Robert Dyas or from Lakeland.

NOTE:  I have put some as the ingredients as optional as student cooks will probably not have the cupboard space nor frequent use for some of these items. The chorizo is also optional as it is an added expense for students on a tight budget, but could be substituted with some rashers of streaky bacon.