Monday, March 19, 2012

St Patrick's Day: Leek & Potato Soup with Soda Bread

As usual, I decided to bake a loaf of soda bread for the St. Patrick's day, substituting actual Irish food for the messy American traditions of green beer and bad sausage. For once, I didn't make the decision at 8 p.m. on the holiday itself, so I had time to plan an actual meal around it. On Friday, I made an enormous batch of stock (see my next post for the recipe). Most of it went into the freezer, but what didn't fit obviously needed to become soup. Something containing potatoes seemed in order, and I had some leeks, and Mark Bittman's magical How to Cook Everything had a recipe, and so... leek and potato soup. I changed up the very basic recipe (which Bittman calls "medieval") for a bit more flavor, but more or less followed his method.

2-3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into thin rounds
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small white onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
6-8 cups vegetable stock (enough to cover the vegetables, plus another cup)
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper to taste
thinly sliced scallions and hot paprika for garnish

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Put the vegetables into the pot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir until they begin to soften (five minutes or so).

Pour in the broth and simmer briskly for twenty minutes or so, until the vegetables are quite soft. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you can eat the soup--it's vegan (if you used oil instead of butter), and healthy, and totally delicious. But you can also make it more awesome...

Let the soup cool for at least half an hour, and carefully blend it, using an immersion blender (preferred method) or by transferring to a traditional blender (don't fill it too high or it will attack you, like when I made butternut squash soup). Add the bay leaf and cream and slowly reheat to just below boiling. Take out the bay leaf and serve hot.

Garnish with scallions and a dash of hot paprika (or a lot of hot paprika), eat with dense, crumbly bread.

Sunflower seeds react within the bread for a festive green touch.

Two of us made a dent in the pot of soup before going out for the evening... and the four of us who came back later demolished it completely, along with most of a bottle of whiskey and a stack of poetry books. Overall, a good holiday.

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