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Monday, April 27, 2015

leek and potato spring greens soup

Leek and Potato Soup.
Spring Greens Soup.
Hippocrates (sort-of/tomato-less) Soup.

Doesn't matter what you call it, this is easy. This is delicious. This is really good for you.

You will need an approximate quantity of chopped vegetables and herbs.
You will need a large pot.
You will need a source of heat.
You will need some butter, some olive oil, or both.
You will need hot water, or chicken stock, or vegetable stock.
You will need an immersion wand blender, if you like smooth soup.

You will need a bowl and spoon, some delicious chunky bread with garlic butter, and an appetite.

Start by chopping up your veg.

I prefer 1 part onions : 1 part potatoes : 3 parts mixed greens. But the great thing about this soup is you can really mix that up however you like, according to your taste or your available kitchen and garden vegetables.

The greens I'm using today are leeks, cabbage, onions, garden spinach that needed harvesting, a few stalks of garden lovage (like a cross between celery and fennel in flavor and aroma, much like celery when cooked), some dandelion leaves that were in a convenient location near the herbs, and a handful of mixed herbs, including parsley, sage, thyme, and oregano.

Start with the sliced or diced onion in a pan with butter and olive oil. The butter adds delicious flavor, and a glug of olive oil helps to ensure the butter does not burn. Simmer the onions over a low-medium heat until they start to clarify and smell delicious.

This is the Aga. Living in England now, instead of Arizona, I am using Mum's amazing oven and adjusting certain cooking methods to suit this old fashioned stove. An Aga is a giant piece of metal, basically. It is solid cast iron. This is a refurbished one that was once fueled by coal or wood fire, but now is heated by a gas flame. It is on day and night, year round, except for about 2 weeks in the very hottest part of an English summer when it is turned off to cool and be maintenanced. On the top are two plates. The left side is the boiling plate, the right side where my onions are cooking is the simmering plate. The top right oven is for roasting, the one below it for baking, the top left is for simmering, and the bottom left is the warming oven. Temperatures are not as specific in Aga ovens as with more modern ovens, and the top of each oven is hotter than the bottom. So some cooking, and particularly baking, must be adjusted accordingly. Since most of the heat in an Aga is retained in the oven, the hot plates on the top are only used for about 25% of all cooking and the rest is done in the oven. I'll show you how this soup is managed.

Now, the onions are cooking nicely. Add the rest of the veg. Potatoes, greens, herbs and spices. Also add some warmed or hot water, or stock. You can use chicken stock or vegetable stock, or just plain water, depending on your preference and health needs. Today, I'm using veg stock. Fill up to just underneath the veg in your soup pot, not quite covering it. The greens will lose volume and bulk as they cook. You can always add more liquid later if you want a thinner soup, but start by prepping for thicker soup.

If you have a conventional oven or stove top, pop a lid on your soup and leave it to cook on a low simmer for an hour. If you have an Aga, pop a lid on your soup and move the pot to the simmering oven, or the bottom of the baking oven, again for about an hour.

See how easy? The hardest work thus far was chopping.

Once all the veg is fully soft, take your pot off or out of the the heat, and bring out your trusty old immersion wand blender. Blend up the soup as you like, leaving some chunks for texture if you prefer or buzzing the whole thing smooth.

I love smooth Spring Greens Soup with a swirl of crème fraiche stirred through the center. DE-licous! Serve for lunch with that trusty crusty garlic bread, or a ham and brie sandwich, or even make this soup a pleasant, easy, nutrient rich first course in your next dinner party. When I am faced with an unexpected extra few bodies for dinner, adding a soup course to the menu helps to stretch the main course quite a bit further without making anyone step away deprived or feeling as though they've inconvenienced me.

Serve right away, or cool and store for later. This keeps well in the fridge or freezer for convenient future reheating and slurping so long as you keep it dairy-free. Cream-of-___ soups don't tend to defrost well without curdling or getting a funky texture.