velvety leek and potato soup

happy new year! i’ve got great hopes for 2009, not least as the last three weeks of 2008 were filled with coughs, colds, sniffles and sneezes. 2009 has to be better although i’m still spluttering about at the moment.

as a result my plans to cook some of the interesting dishes which had caught my eye during the year came to naught and david and i spent much of the break eating food which one of us could quickly pull together and which didn’t require a trip to the shops.

nigel slater was the provider of several lovely meals which fitted this description, including the ever-wonderful chickpeas with pumpkin, lemongrass and coriander and this parmesan-infused leek and potato soup from his kitchen diaries.

the soup has a wonderful velvety texture which comes from slow cooking the leeks and adding parmesan rinds along with the stock. it is so much richer (despite the lack of cream) and more delicate than the usual leek and potato soup which people make and is definitely worth trying, even if you’re not ill.

nigel slater’s velvety leek and potato soup (serves 3-4)

3 large leeks

40g butter

3 medium potatoes

parmesan rinds*

1 1/2 litres vegetable stock

handful of parsley leaves

6 tablespoons grated parmesan**

trim the leeks, slice them into thick rings and wash well under cold running water. melt the butter in a heavy-based pan then tip in the washed leeks and let them soften slowly, covered with a lid, over a low to moderate heat. after about 20 minutes and with some occasional stirring they should be silkily tender.

while they are softening, peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. add them to the leeks when they are soft and let them cook for 5 minutes or so before adding the cheese rinds and stock. season with salt and black pepper, partially cover and leave to simmer for agood 40 minutes.

remove and discard the undissolved cheese rinds, scraping back into the soup any cheesy goo from them as you go. add the parsley leaves and blitz the soup in a blender. check the seasoning – you may need a surprisingly generous amount of salt and pepper – then bring briefly to the boil. serve piping hot with the grated parmesan.

* on nigel’s advice i never throw away my parmesan rinds, keeping them for adding to soups like this when you want an extra layer of flavour. i added 5 rinds which have accumulated over the past few months.

** i forgot this but the soup was cheesy enough from the rinds!