Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Leek, Potato & Carrot Soup

This is a simple soup with a gentle onion flavor. Adding a spiced cheese on top makes it much more spicy - but you could just as easily add a drop of hot salsa or hot sauce for the same effect. Such spiciness is always optional. The soup stores well, but cannot be frozen unless it is first pureed (otherwise the potatoes develop an odd texture when they thaw).

Peeling vegetables is never a favorite chore. I lug the vegetables, a pot, and a bag into the living room, sit before the TV and start peeling the vegetables into the bag. That way I can watch something interesting and (hopefully) not cut my fingers by trying to peel too quickly.

I doubled this recipe (or tried to, you'll see) so I peeled 12 carrots (6 for the recipe, 6 for eating) and 6 medium-sized potatoes. It...took a while. Once everything was naked, I returned to the kitchen. There the veggies got a good wash, and I beheaded the leeks. I cut their bottoms off, then sliced the stalk into quarters that didn't quite cut through the bulb at the end. By fanning out the layers of the stalk under running water I was able to get rid of most of the sand. I repeated the process three times (just to make sure).

I took the fresh-made chicken broth out of the fridge and skimmed its fat off. Then I measured the amount I had. I needed eight cups, I had six. Dang. Looking at the recipe, I mentally calculated the amounts of carrots and potatoes I'd need for six cups of broth.

The extra potatoes I put in a bowl and covered them with water. Guess I'm having smashed potatoes tomorrow.

Then I began chopping. Were it not for my worrying about my finger-tips - dicing vegetables would be almost as boring as peeling them. But the proximity of a sharp knife to my very fragile flesh always keeps me alert. My knife-skills are fair and I was able to complete the chopping in about 10 minutes. More than 1/2 the carrots were put in Tupperware with enough water to cover them. They went into the fridge for snacks for the week.

I poured the olive oil into the pot and turned on the heat. While it warmed up, I cleaned up my chopping board, rinsed my knife and brought all my ingredients to the stove. I let a drop of water fall from my finger-tips into the pan. No sizzle? Not warm enough yet. I busied about, swept my kitchen floor and wandered out to see what was on TV.

When the water sizzled I added the vegetables to the pot all at once. I stirred them to coat them with the hot oil and help in the cooking. When the leeks were mostly transparent, I added the salt and pepper and stirred again. Then I poured in the broth, covered the pot, set the timer, and walked away.

I came back when the timer screamed at me. I stirred the pot, tasted the broth (hot!), and adjusted the seasoning. The vegetables were soft - so it was ready to serve.

I ladled it into bowls and threw a sprinkling of Gouda jalapeƱo cheese on top. Delicious.

Leek, potato & carrot soup
Serves: 4 people.
Preparation: 15 minutes.
Cooking: 20-30 minutes.
Equipment: Peeler, vegetable knife, cutting board, soup pot, ladle, wooden spoon.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, green discarded, well washed, and diced finely
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups broth, I use chicken
pepper, freshly ground, to taste
salt, to taste
1/4 cup cheese, preferably spicy (optional)

  1. Place the olive oil in the bottom of a deep soup pot, and place it on a warm burner.
  2. Test the olive oil to see if its hot. When the olive oil spits as a drop of water touches it - it's ready.
  3. Add the diced vegetables and stir until the leeks become mostly transparent (about 3 minutes).
  4. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Add the chicken broth and cover for up to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat if it starts to excessively steam or if the cover jumps.
  6. Check that the carrots and potatoes are easily crushable (they mash well with a fork or between two spoons). If the carrots and potatoes are not yet soft, cover for another 10 minutes and check again. Soup should be gently boiling. If not, increase the heat.
  7. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings.
  8. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese on top.
Note: Originally this recipe was posted with 2 tablespoons of fresh ground pepper and 1 of salt. As commenters rightly pointed out -- this is a lot of pepper. I've modified the recipe so that seasoning is now to taste.


  1. OMG! This was SO spicy! I did not have enough whole peppercorns to grind, so I used preground. Othat than that I followed the recipe to a T.

  2. Did you really use 2 TABLESPOONS of pepper?