I received a fabulous cookbook for Christmas this year from the man I love to cook for most. Tender is a stunning guide to growing and cooking vegetables, from British writer Nigel Slater. This heavy book is packed full of recipes and extensive gardening notes, just “A cook & his vegetable patch” he says.
Well the only thing I have left growing in my garden at the moment are some bushy overgrown herbs, and some tiny leeks. My leeks aren’t quite big enough to yield this recipe- but none the less, my mouth began watering when I got to this section of the book.
I was so surprised at how velvety smooth and rich the soup turned out even though the recipe didn’t call for any cream! Having an immersion blender definitely helped get it there, but it would still be just as good if you don’t have that tool. Nigel’s recipe called for the addition of sausage links to be served with the soup, and while his english accent is persuasive, I decided to crisp up some pancetta instead, as well as fry up a few leek leaves for a garnish. The fried leek strips ended up being my favorite part! I kind-of wish I had made more. Another great garnish would be some shredded cheddar cheese and chives.
Leek & Potato Soup (adapted from Tender)
3 large leeks
3-4 medium Russet Potatoes
4 celery stalks
3 tbs butter
6 1/2 cups vegetable stock
olive oil for frying
1 tsp fresh thyme
Salt to taste
Slice the tough dark green ends off the leeks and discard. Slice the whites and pale green ends of the leeks down the middle , separate the layers and rinse well to remove any additional grit. Chop the leeks in to 1/4 in rings. Reserve a few short strips off to the side to fry up for a garnish.
In a stock pot or dutch oven melt the butter and add the leeks. Let them cook over low to medium heat for about 15-20 minutes without letting them color, until they are soft enough to crush with your fingers.
Once they have softened, you can add the chopped celery and a bit of salt to taste. While those sweat in the pot, peel and chop your potatoes and add them to the pot as well. Add the thyme, stir and cover with a lid. Let the vegetables sweat and soften for about 5-10 minutes. Then add the stock and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat so that it bubbles lightly and cover partially with a lid. After simmering for about 25 minutes the potatoes should be softened and ready to blend. Using an immersion blender blitz the soup until your desired level of smoothness is achieved.
In a separate skillet saute the pancetta until crisp. Remove the crisp pieces drain on paper towels. Add olive oil to the skillet with the rendered pancetta fat and heat over medium high heat. Toss the remaining raw leek strips in the hot oil and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towels and lightly season with salt.
To plate- ladle the soup in a bowl and garnish with the crispy pancetta and fried leek strips.