Soup du jour

After watching Jamie’s Kitchen last night, and witnessing his students blunder through the supposedly simple exercise of cutting up leeks, I thought I should tell you about my leek cooking disaster over the weekend.
We had invited Ben and Suzette and the kids over for lunch and as it was a cold and wintry day I decided to make some lovely hot soup to serve with crusty fresh bread and a glass of wine. Last week Mum and Dad’s friend Shirley had brought over a bowl of leek and potato soup for us for dinner and it was so good. Just the perfect blend of flavours. I had grilled her over the recipe and she told me that it was as simple as bunging together some leeks, potatoes and water and voila. When cooking something new I tend to get a bit neurotic about following a recipe and bunging things together is not something I have quite got the hang of yet I decided to go to Stephanie’s bible and follow her sage wisdom. Sure enough it was basically leeks and potatoes and water with a sprinkle of parsley and chives to garnish (wot? no stock??). I went down to the Market early Saturday morning with Mum and bought a tonne of leeks, the potatoes, some parsley (I had seen chives in pots on mum’s patio if I needed them) and some other bits and pieces to nibble on from Nick and Sue’s (who make the most amazing dolmades) and rushed back to delegate leek chopping to Big-P while I rushed around trying to carefully wash out the leek grit, peel spuds and fling things in the huge saucepan. It was just like something out of Jamie’s Kitchen. Leek tops and peelings everywhere.

Soon everything was bubbling comfortably on the stove. It smelt ok. Kind of like leeks if you can believe it.

The gang arrived as the potatoes began to soften and all was going to plan — until I tasted it. And oh dear, absolutely no taste at all. So the soup looked like snot and tasted like nothing. Bon appetie mes amies! Never fear… I followed Stephanie’s instructions to season well and by the time I let Suzette taste a little for her advice my salt grinding arm was seizing up with RSI. “Needs more salt” said Suzette. So more salt I gave it. And when in doubt, garnish! So I had already chopped up the parsley ready to sprinkle, but I decided that I should also duck out the back door and grab the chives. What sweet little things, dancing merrily in their pots, blowing softly in the wind. I snipped a handful and went back to chop them up . Except they didn’t really smell like chives but I figured that perhaps because I’d been cooking with potent leeks all morning I was just unable to smell the oniony-ness of the chives.

LUCKILY I mentioned this to Big-P as I washed my hands and asked him to try them. I was out of the kitchen at the time and he took a big pinch and gobbled them down. “no, they don’t taste like chives” he called to me. So Suzette had a little (LUCKILY) nibble and agreed with a definite “they are not chives”.

So we forwent the chives. And the soup was very, very dull indeed. The faux-chives – which turned out to be petticoat daffodils – would have been an improvement. Thank goodness there’s was Ben’s apple pie to follow. Mmm. Good pastry.

But while I have learnt a lot from Jamie Oliver and his books and TV shows over the last few years, I learnt two things on Saturday from Chez Robbo – anything tastes ok after a couple of glasses of wine at lunchtime (even Snot Soup with Petticoat Daffodils) and when Stephanie says “season well” – she really means it.

Here for the photographic evidence of why I was quite sure they were chives:

See?? Plus they are nestled in amongst the pots of parsley and coriander!

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24 Responses

  1. Claire,
    Eeek! No stock … what on earth are they saying?

    As Stefano De Pieri always says, “It doz not hav to bi compliceh-ted!”

    1. Chop potatos into cubes (it makes cooking quicker) and put aside.

    2. Saute the chopped leeks till softened with olive oil or butter.

    3. Add potatoes to chopped leeks and cover with enough chicken stock (or vege stock if you’re vegetarian).

    4. Bring to boil.

    4. Simmer until potatoes are soft.

    5. Throw everything in a blender and voila!

    Of course if you want a more textured soup don’t put all the leek into the blender.

    Best wishes!
    Julie &

  2. says:

    A word to the wise — if you think it looked like snot when you made it, you should see if after you freeze it, and then thaw.
    Straight into the garbage — enough salt or not!

  3. [tangent] FIRST COMMENT! Huzzah! Ahem.[/tangent]
    Those green stalky things would definitely have ended up in my soup. Eh, they look like chives to me. But then you’re talking to the girl who can’t really tell the difference between a rose and a camelia, so who am I to say? 😉

  4. says:

    I have made Stephanie’s Leek and Potato Soup and I too was disappointed. It’s the first time Stephanie has let me down.
    My soup tasted of water and potatoes when cooked by the Stephanie method, but I tried again and it tasted lovely if using butter (for frying) and chicken stock. That’s how my Mum made it and it was really nice. She always garnished with sour cream and chives.

    To stick up for Stephanie, I have been searching for the perfect banana cake recipe. I experimented with lots off the internet and some from Gourmet Traveller, but Stephanie’s is best!

  5. says:

    Frying the potatoes in butter to brown before boiling them gives the soup a lovely nutty taste and I always use chicken stock. Add some grated cheese as well.

  6. They sure look like chives to me! Especially with their placement among the herbs, I can see why you were thrown off. (I find it doesn’t hurt to throw in some regular onions when you’re sauteeing the leeks, for extra soup flavour. And veggie stock helps, too.)

  7. I make the soup in the same way as Julie but i add a little bit of milk for creamyness.
    But never mind, Claire, the most important is to get together with your friends. And also, next time you’ll be expert!!

    And oh, I watched all series of Jamie’s Kitchen here in UK and soon enough you’ll feel so angry with those lazy students wasting their once in a lifetime opportunity!!

  8. Kath! I love the idea of frying the potatoes for a bit to start with. Yummo. Usually I have quite a lot of luck with Stephanie’s stuff so I was a little surprised with this, but I will definitely try it again with a little stock for flavour.

  9. …and here I was thinking that you hadn’t added any salt at all when I tasted it! Honestly Claire, it was yummy. All it needed was some salt, some pepper, some more salt, some bread to dip in it, and some more salt…
    But the really important thing here is that both our bubs slept while we ate, so we had uninterrupted conversation. How rare is that? Certainly is for us.

    So apart from the slightly too delicate flavour, everything was perfect, especially the yoga-timed coffee!

  10. says:

    Garlic and a big glug of white wine do wonders for potato and leek soup. And stock is essential…

  11. i agree the plant in the pic looks decidedly chivey! mmm, i haven’t had leek and potato soup for aaages.

  12. says:

    It’s always so disapointing to have people over when you’ve made something unsuccessful. But I’ve also been the guest in those situations and I didn’t care one little bit–I was there for the friends, not the food!
    But I’ll share my potato leek soup secret with you anyway: After you’ve sauteed the leeks in butter, just add a couple of Tbsps of flour to the mix and then brown it up. (And use stock, of course.)

    I don’t know why this works. There is some scientific reason that was once explained on Cook’s Illustrated but I’ve forgotten it.

    Speaking of which, do you get CI in Oz? You would love it:

  13. They definately look like chives to me and I’ve grown them in pots before too.
    By the way, tonight I’m tackling an old receipe you put on your site ages ago, for sweet potatoe and brocolli soup. Wish me well, I hope it doesn’t turn out looking like snot too, because my partner is already very suspicious of my homemade soups.

  14. i usually throw some water, potatoes, carrots, leek, onions, salt, black pepper and paprika spice in a pot. boil until potatoes are soft. then i pour the stuff into a mixer or use a ‘wand mixer’ (whatever they’re called in english) and mix it up until pretty smooth. then i add some cream or creme fraiche and if needed some more salt. yummy!

  15. oh and some veggie stock cubes as well, i forgot to add that!

  16. says:

    KLS, if you heat the soup through once it has defrosted, magically all the slimy gunk blends back into the green watery liquid it’s separated from. It tastes just as yummy as fresh. (Best not to ask why I tried this. It has to do with being too lazy to make more soup.)

  17. says:

    Don’t forget garlic! The answer to all lack-lustre woes in this world is garlic.

  18. says:

    They don’t look like any of the chives I have ever grown…mine are always brown, shrivilled and covered in bugs.
    Don’t forget that stinging nettles look like mint. 🙂

  19. Try a mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes. It’s yummy. I add mushrooms right at the end of cooking too.

  20. My biggest cooking disaster was the night I cooked squid curry with coconut milk. I was looking for cornflour as a quick way to thicken it up before eating. I found custard powder instead which contained cornflour and I thought that would do the trick. I ended up with squid custard but I was so hungry I ate it. I’ve never made a worse dish.

  21. Tuesday — squid custard sounds truly disgusting. TRULY! And you ate it???

  22. I recently made up a pot of leek and potato soup and, just to add a few comments:*for those that do not mind animal fats/proteins: start by rendering a few slabs of salt pork in the bottom of you stockpot.LOADS of difference. (take the pork out before serving though)
    *very little pre-prep is needed: nce you get the oil (or pork fat) heating, chop and clean your leaks (slice of greens, cut in hafl lengthwise, rinse while fanning, slice into thin half-rings). Add those and let them soften while chopping the potatoes (pause to stir occasionally) and add a bit of garlic towards the end of the leeks.
    *mixing the potatoes into the sauteed leeks and fat imparts more flavor to the bland spuds through the slight bit of caramelization of the sugars (the same thing that happens when you start with a roux–adding flour to the leeks and oil counts). Caramelization stops once liquid is present, so this flavor development cannot happen if you add everything to boiling stock/water first. It also helps to warm the stock/liquid before adding: speeds cooking.
    *once the soup has cooked down (smoosh some the potato cubes against the side of the pot but leave out the blender step….it just makes for thin soup) finish with a pour of heavy cream before serving and top with a dollop of sour cream/creme fraiche, chives and cheddar cheese.

  23. says:

    That’s so hilarious about the custard squid tuesday. I let down the drooling mouths of my fam when I made a lemon meringue pie and instead of 6 T’s of cornflour, I accidently used 6 T’s of icing sugar. It was one runny sickly slop. Nothing is worse when it looks ok when you’re finally done either but you know it’s going to taste revolting. I feel your lame cooking pain.

  24. hehe, you’re all soo funny. i loved reading your entry Claire AND all the comments