In Love With Leeks

Potato and Leek Soup

Still Winter…Still Cold!

I really shouldn’t complain about winter in Melbourne. Yes, the air gets chilly…Yes, it rains…Yes, it gets dark early…but it NEVER reaches sub zero temperatures. In fact it hardly ever gets close to zero and it doesn’t snow! You could of course go to the snow resorts and do some snow stuff but as I grew up around the corner from the beach, I am more of a beach girl.

The fact that I like to pretend during winter that it is summer by turning up the central heating and dressing like I’m on a tropical island is a clear indicator that I’m not about to visit the snow resorts anytime soon. I have been to said resorts and it was really cold outside and the sky was an amazing blue but I stayed indoors by the open fire drinking wine for most of it!  Snow looks awesome but seeing it on the telly is quite enough for me.

All that aside, I don’t hate winter. My birthday is in winter. I love to wear boots. I love drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I love slow cooked comfort food. I cook more in winter than I do in summer. I love winter food, especially soup…pumpkin soup being one of my favourites. Potato and Leek soup comes in a close second best for me.

I worked out, as I was making potato and leek soup for dinner tonight, that I hadn’t made this for about 2 years. How do I know? I remember that I made it as a starter for guests one winter night (I remember meals by the company with whom it was shared)…also by the fact that these guests have never been invited back to our house as they are not very pleasant people…I was pleasant and hospitable, cooked a crankin’ meal but no dice…they ain’t comin’ back!

So, of course, the poor soup copped the blame and it has taken me 2 years to separate my distaste for those people with the soup. It’s like when you get food poisoning and you can’t eat whatever made you sick ever again. In light of this, I added some spices this time, so it’s not exactly the same soup…a new beginning…welcome back potato and leek soup 🙂

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tbs olive or garlic oil
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 medium (about 700g) peeled desiree, pink eye or pontiac potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 leeks, pale section only, washed, dried, thinly sliced
  • 1.25L (5 cups) vegetable stock
  • pancetta
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the potato and leek and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until leek softens.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and gently boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until potato is soft. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

Transfer one-third of the potato mixture to the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean saucepan. Repeat in 2 more batches with the remaining potato mixture.

Finely chop pancetta and fry until crunchy. Tip out onto absorbant paper.

Place the soup over medium heat. Add the cream and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until hot. Taste and season with salt.

Ladle the soup among serving bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and top with fried and crunchy pancetta. Serve immediately.

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Luscious Leeky Pasta

Loving Leeks with Pasta

It’s Monday and already the marking of papers for school has piled up. My senior kids had a practise written assessment task for English this afternoon and I must get them back to them by tomorrow so they can prepare for the actual graded task next week. It’s called a SAC – School Assessed Task – and they are pretty important as it is the SAC grades that they see on their mid year reports. The kids get pretty stressed and I get pretty stressed about marking them.

I still had to feed my family, my cat and my dog. I still had to help my daughter with her own studies as she is in her final year of high school and the pressure is incredible. She had her own English SAC today and she came home trying to work out how she went and I knew she was a little stressed. We all needed to be fed well but hours in the kitchen was not an option.

I do love pasta. Last week when I complained that I didn’t want to make pasta, it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, but that I had chicken and Leek pie stuck in my head. In fact it was the Leek I craved more than the chicken.

I love Leeks. They are versatile and taste wonderful and give any food you pair them with a great colour. Used with creme fraiche and stirred through any type of pasta is wonderful. Top with parsley and a good quality parmesan cheese and you have a wonderfully rich but easy Monday night meal.

This is a Gordon Ramsay recipe. I will post the recipe with Pancetta and mushrooms however tonight as I was unable to stop on the way home from work to buy pancetta, I left it out. When I got home I realised that I didn’t have enough of the same type of pasta left in the pantry and as I had chicken tenderloins in the fridge I added that instead to bulk up the meal.

This is why I love cooking. Recipes for me are a guide. If you don’t like a particular vegetable substitute it for something you do like. There is nothing more depressing than not making something because you don’t have a particular type of pasta or you prefer a tomato based sauce to a cream one. Just do what you like. Cooking is about eating what you love not being stressed out and not trying things and experimenting with food.

Ingredients

  • 300 g pasta shells conchiglie
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 125 g pancetta sliced
  • 2 medium Leeks trimmed and finely sliced
  • 250 g chestnut Mushrooms trimmed and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraiche
  • Flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese to serve

Method

Add the pasta shells to a pot of boiling salted water and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the pancetta. Fry for a few minutes until it is golden brown, then add the leeks, mushrooms and a little salt and pepper. Stir over high heat for 6–8 minutes until the leeks are tender.

Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the pancetta, leeks and mushrooms. Stir in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter over the chopped parsley to serve.