Potato Leek Soup. Or Leek and Potato Soup.

Bowl of leek and potato soup with napkin and breadWhen I was planning my move from the UK to the UK, one of the things I barely gave any thought to was the language, after all we all speak English, right? It was only after I moved here I came to appreciate some of the small but significant differences in pronunciation and even names for things.

It’s particularly obvious in food. I quickly adapted to oREGano vs oreGANO, dropping the “h” in herbs to say urbs still feels kind of weird and I learned to ask for cilantro rather than coriander in the supermarket. Don’t get me started on the different classifications of sugar – powdered vs. icing, superfine vs. caster…maybe that’s why I don’t bake.

Only recently did I start to wonder about why leek and potato soup (as it’s commonly known in the UK) is usually named Potato Leek soup in the US. I suspect it’s because potatoes are more popular than the humble leek and usually recipes call for almost equal quantities of the two key ingredients.

Whether you know it as potato leek or leek and potato, heck, chill it down and call it Vichyssoise, it’s the perfect lunch on a cold winter day. It’s also super easy:

In a large pan, cook chopped, washed leeks and potato with a little butter for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a good pinch of salt. Add liquid (water or broth) to just cover leeks and potato. Simmer for ~30 minutes until leeks are tender and potato is cooked through. Blend. Stir in cream. Season.

Maybe it’s due to the years I spent in Wales where the leek is a national symbol but I like to have the leeks as the star ingredient with the potato in more of a supporting role. It’s tough to specify quantities unless you plan to weigh out your vegetables. Depending on the time of year and where you’re getting your leeks from they could be little spindly baby leeks or whopping great tree-trunk leeks. I like to aim for 70-80% leek and 20% potato in the pot.

The most recent batch I made used FIVE of this rather massive leeks and four small/medium potatoes for six steaming hot bowls of leek and potato deliciousness.

Leeks are dirty little things, as you’d expect when they spend much of their life in the soil. To thoroughly wash them and remove all dirt you can slice them in half lengthwise (discard the very tough green tops) and then slice. That gives you half moon slices instead of rounds so you can clean better in between the layers.

Cooking the leeks and potato with a little knob of butter, salt and pepper brings out the flavor. Then add your choice of liquid, water works fine or you might choose chicken stock or vegetable broth for the extra flavor. You want to just cover the leeks and potato as they’ll cook down quite a bit, you can always add a little more liquid once you’ve blended if you think your soup is too thick. Pop a lid on and cook on a low/medium heat until the leeks are tender and the potato is easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

If you plan to liquidize the soup in a blender you’ll have to wait for it to cool to avoid any hot soup explosions so I prefer my handheld blender. Give the soup a good blitz until there are no chunks left. Next comes the good stuff – stir in a cup of heavy cream. Season to taste, my preference is for heavy pepper and just enough salt to bring out the flavor of the leeks.

We enjoyed our soup with a crusty Fougasse bread roll from the amazing Standard Baking Company on the side. You can also drizzle in a little extra cream over the back of a teaspoon to dress up your soup if you feel the urge!
A hot bowl of creamy potato leek soup - perfect for a winter day

How to make turkey stock

With all of the turkey meat used up in our Thanksgiving sandwiches and Thanksgiving turkey pie, I was left with a rather ginormous turkey carcass. I used to think making stock was complicated or there was some kind of mystery to it but it couldn’t be easier and once you’ve made your first batch of stock you’ll likely become a stock convert. There’s something strangely gratifying about taking a bunch of bones destined for the trashcan and turning them into a rich savory and nutritious liquid that’ll add so much depth and flavor to other dishes.

Here’s all you need to know:

1. Put meat bones in pot, add vegetables of choice (usually a peeled carrot, a stick of celery and a peeled and quartered onion), cover with water, simmer gently for as long as you like.
2. Strain, cool, remove fat from top if necessary. Season. Enjoy alone or in other dishes. 

And speaking of stock, is it stock? Broth? Bone broth? What’s the difference between broth and stock? Here’s the skinny thanks to the guys at Epicurious:
Broth – water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and meat for 45-2 hours. Results in a light, flavorful liquid, perfect for the base of a soup.
Stock – water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and bones (may be roasted, may still have meat on them) for 4-6 hours. Used to deglaze pans or as a base for a rich sauce or gravy.
Bone broth – somewhat of a hybrid of broth and stock. Water simmered with roasted bones (may still have meat attached) for a long time, up to 24 hours to extract the collagen, gelatin and nutritious minerals.

One final word about making stock – don’t think you can throw any old crap into the pot and boil away. Garbage in = Garbage out. So peel your carrots and onions, don’t use rotting vegetables and simmer it gently!
[Edited: there are also schools of thought that the peel on the vegetables adds to the flavor – try it both ways and see which you prefer!]

Here’s how I made turkey stock from our Thanksgiving turkey:

We had a 17lb turkey so that was a pretty big carcass, I didn’t want my stock to taste of the residual stuffing still inside the bird so I used just the legs (meat still attached), wings and breastbone. With a chicken, smaller turkey or non-stuffed turkey I would have just put the whole thing in the pot. I added a couple of carrots (peeled and cut in half), two celery sticks, a peeled and quartered onion, added enough water to cover the bones, popped on a little parchment paper lid (to prevent my stock from escaping) and left the whole thing on a low heat overnight.

Waking up to the rich scent of the broth made me want to eat soup for breakfast! Here’s what was waiting for me in the pot after around 10 hours of simmering on a low heat:

To strain the stock I find it’s easier to fish out as much of the solids/bones/vegetables as possible (otherwise your sieve gets stuck). You’ll see all of the stuff I removed (with tongs) on the left and what was left in the pot on the right. Some people would use the meat but I feel like it’s had all of the flavor and goodness cooked out of it at this point so it usually goes to the dogs.

Cheesecloth-lined sieve used to strain the stock, just ladle it in. As your cheesecloth or sieve starts to collect all of the little bone fragments and other stuff you might want to use a spoon to gently push them aside to let your golden stock filter through.

The stock went into the fridge to cool for a couple of hour and when it came out it was the consistency of wobbly jell-o (you can reduce it down further to make intense stock for soup dumplings but that’s another blog post for another day). You can see the little layer of yellow fat on the top which easily scrapes off with a spoon.

And that’s it! I ended up with about 6 cups of intensely rich turkey stock. 2 cups went in the freezer for future use and I used the remaining 4 cups to make a loosely-Asian-inspired soup (adding reserved shredded turkey meat, cooked ramen noodles, beansprouts, soy sauce, ponzu) served with more beansprouts, lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.

Tips for making stock:
– If roasting a chicken, buy a few extra wings or even a couple of legs to add to the pot with the chicken carcass for a richer stock
– Don’t boil your stock on a high heat, simmer it gently. At higher temperatures more volatile aroma and flavour compounds will be released, leaving a flatter-tasting stock
– You can add any aromatics to your stock – garlic, lemongrass, lemons, ginger, bay leaves, juniper, thyme or other herbs depending on what you plan to do with it.
– A fatty bird like a duck will likely give you quite a fatty stock. When you remove the thick layer of yellow fat from your cooled stock don’t throw it away! Roast a few peeled potatoes in it (you can also keep the fat in the freezer if you don’t have any potatoes on hand)
– Freeze your stock in recipe-appropriate portions, I usually have baggies of 1, 2 and 3 cups of stock in the freezer so I can grab the right size and not have to defrost too much.
– When freezing, lay your baggies flat until frozen, you can then store them upright and they don’t take up too much room. You can also snap off a piece of frozen stock if you don’t want the whole bag
– Consider skipping the final seasoning when freezing stock (just label it “unseasoned”), if you’re using it at a later date with other salty ingredients (bacon, parmesan etc) then you don’t have to worry about having an over-salted final dish.
– Use your flavorful stock for soups, sauces, stews, risottos and more.

Get-Well-Chicken-Soup Recipe

Get-Well Chicken Soup Recipe
Take a deep breathe in through your nose. Ahhh, feels good right? You’re probably doing that more than 20,000 times a day and you’re not even thinking about it! That is, until you catch a cold and your nose goes on strike. Now you’re breathing through your mouth, going through boxes and boxes of tissues and everything you eat tastes like cotton wool.

When this happens in our house,  it’s time for “Get Well Chicken Soup” also known as “Chicken Tortellini Soup”. The get-well element comes from the generous amount of garlic which is known to stimulate the immune system. Officially the garlic should be raw to be more effective so if you’re feeling brave you could add some additional minced raw garlic just before serving. And then just don’t kiss anyone that hasn’t eaten the soup with you!

I got the recipe for this from my good friend Judy who would make this when her kids had a cold. It’s ridiculously easy and you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes. I’ll list the ingredients but it’s also one of those “throw in what you like” kind of soups. In terms of chopping – it’s your soup so decide if you want chunky vegetables or finely diced.

This is the quick and easy version with store-bought stock and a rotisserie chicken but if I’ve roasted a chicken for dinner I’ll make stock from the bones and use any leftover meat, it’s a lot tastier! You start by softening onion, celery and carrots in a little butter. Add as much garlic as you can bear and cook for a little longer.

Throw in the carton of chicken broth. Add the can of diced tomatoes. Add the shredded chicken meat. Cook for 5-10 minutes and then season to taste. As a cold can also dull your tastebuds I’ll also add a hefty shake of red pepper flakes but you don’t have to.

If you’re using frozen spinach, cook it according to the package instructions, drain off excess water and add it to the soup. If you’re using fresh spinach you can just add a small handful to the soup bowls and ladle in the hot soup over the top to wilt it.

Cook the tortellini according to the directions on the package (I prefer to cook it in a separate pan so the soup doesn’t get too starchy but you don’t have to). Fresh tortellini can disintegrate as it’s kind of delicate so dried works better. You can use cheese or spinach or whatever your favorite tortellini is! Serve in a warmed soup bowl with a hunk of crusty bread or even a little grated parmesan on top.

Get Well Chicken Soup

  • Servings: 4-6 bowls of soup
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 rotisserie chicken (skin removed and meat shredded)
5-10 carrots, chopped
1 onion, sliced
4 sticks of celery, chopped
4-8 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely sliced
1 carton of low-sodium chicken broth (or your own stock)
1 package of frozen spinach (or a bag of fresh baby spinach)
1 can of diced tomatoes (~14oz)
1 package of dried tortellini pasta, I like Barilla
A little oil or spoon of butter
Optional – red pepper flakes

1. In a large pan, melt the butter over a medium hear and cook for diced onion, carrot and celery for ~10 minutes until softened. Put on a separate pan of water to boil for tortellini.
2. Add the crushed/minced garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Pour in the carton of unsalted chicken stock. Add the can of diced tomatoes.
4. If using frozen spinach, cook according to package directions. If using fresh baby spinach you’ll just add it to the bottom of the soup bowls later.
5. Cook the dried tortellini according to the package directions (cooking it separately prevents the soup becoming too starchy).
6. Warm bowls in a low oven. Add a handful of fresh baby spinach, a big spoon or two of cooked tortellini and then ladle in the soup making sure each bowl has broth, chicken and vegetables.
To serve: Top with a little grated cheese (optional) and serve with warm crusty bread.

Healthy and hearty get-well chicken soup with tortellini