Five-confession baked potato soup

Soup’s on!

But it comes with a few caveats.  Ready? 

First one:  I’m not a fan of soup.  I acknowledge that it’s hearty, healthy, filling and warm.  The accompanying soft rolls or bread or, as it is tonight, warm ciabatta are usually the best part for me.  I grew up in a house where there was often a stock pot on the hob or stove, boiling the hell out of the bones – chicken, lamb or beef – from the last roast.  And one of our cats only ate chopped boiled liver so I have a vivid memory of that simmering alongside (in a different pan of course!), and can still visualise the pan and smell the contents if I close my eyes.

Confession two:  soups R not Alison.  I don’t tend to make or eat them.  But now and then, at lunch, usually at a National Trust property, I will eat a bowl of soup (as a main, never ever a starter) with the necessary and more enjoyable crusty or fluffy carb accompaniment.

My family loves soup.  I love my family.  The tinned variety (soup, not family) is full of salt and some include nitrites.  There isn’t much of nutritive value in the varieties that fill the shelves in the supermarkets.  Messrs Baxter and Campbell take note.

Deep breath……………… please don’t judge me but I asked for (here’s the third confession) a soup maker for Christmas.  It does everything from frying the onions through mixing, boiling simmering, stirring at the press of a button and then blending to finish.  It’s the lazy woman’s soup companion.  It’s my new best friend.

So I’m putting it to good use and trying a recipe that Alex passed on which is originally from Smitten Kitchen and which I offer as my first attempt at making soup for pleasure (I’ve done the duty variety before).

Oh, and better get that fourth confession out of the way now:  although the title is ‘baked potato’ soup, the potatoes are not, in fact, baked.  They are boiled.  I have since found a recipe which requires them to be baked first and I will certainly try that but I think the idea here is that one puts toppings on the soup, of the kind that one might put on a baked or  jacket potato.

1 head garlic (I gulped and then shuddered when I saw this but it’s for flavour, not for chopping and including and hopefully we’ll all keep our friends in the coming days)
3 tbsp unsalted butter (olive oil works just as well)
2 medium leeks, washed and chopped into rounds which then become individual circles as the leeks cook
1litre chicken or vegetable stock (I always use vegetable so that the chicken doesn’t overpower other flavours unless it’s a chicken dish of course)
2 bay leaves
dash of salt (although most stock cubes, gels, powders have enough salt to see you through so really not necessary)
2 ½ lb (1 kg approx) russet potatoes cut into ½ inch cubes.
100 ml sour cream or crème fraîche   

I couldn’t find russet but any baker will do and I’m using Albert Bartlett Rooster potatoes.  I reckon the rooster is the russet.  The fifth and final confession (in this recipe) is that I can’t follow any recipe exactly.  I add subtract and substitute at will but for this blog I’m staying within the limits of the suggested ingredients and amounts.  You will be able to chop and change no doubt.  I will give recipes as written and my own suggestions as well. 

No more diversions and here is the rest of the recipe if you’ve not opened a tin of ready made by now!

Rinse the head of garlic to remove any grit.  Chop off top third and then peel down to the cloves, leaving the whorl intact. 

Melt butter or oil over medium heat.

Into melted butter put the leeks and cook until soft but not brown (5 minutes will do it).  Add the garlic head, stock, bay leaves, and a dash of salt if you want it.  Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is soft and the cloves are beginning to separate (perhaps 25 minute)s.  Add potatoes and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes until potatoes are soft. 

Remove bay leaves and garlic head and discard.  If you want an extra garlic boost, mash a couple of the cloves and return to the pan.  Add sour cream and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. 

Now remove a couple of ladlefuls of the chunky bits and put aside.  Blend the remaining mixture in blender in batches or with a hand blender until smooth.  Return the vegetable chunks to the mix to give it texture.

Serve in big bowls and offer a variety of toppings:  snipped chives, more sour cream or crème fraîche and chopped and fried bacon bits for authenticity.   Or simply eat it unadorned and enjoy.


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