Potato and leek soup is a traditional Irish, wintertime, comfort food. Served with buttered, brown soda bread, it is a delicious warm treat on a cold winter’s day.
Some call it leek and potato soup, while others give the potatoes precedence when naming. I had to go with the name potato and leek soup, since I think this is one of the very best potato soup recipes there is.
- 2 large leeks
- 1 to 1 and 1/4 pounds of potatoes (3 medium)
- 1/2 large onion
- 1 oz butter
- 2 thyme sprigs (fresh)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoon chopped chives (to garnish)
- 1 to 2 tablespoon bacon bits (to garnish)
I included bacon and chives in the ingredient picture above, but these are completely optional and used only for garnish. This soup can be vegetarian if vegetable broth is used.
Let’s begin by preparing the leeks. Since these vegetable grow upwards through sandy soil, leek leaves can be full of grit and dirt. Cleaning the leeks is extremely important if you don’t want gritty soup. We could give a whole new meaning to the southern term ‘grits’ by not washing the leeks well.
Chop the top and the bottoms off the leeks.
Here is a picture of the leeks I used. Look how much dirt was between the top two layers.
Cut the leeks in half, then chop each half into semicircles about 1/4 inch thick.
Fill a big bowl with water and toss in the leeks. Use your fingers to separate the layers of each leek slice. Keep parting the layers with your fingers and stirring the pieces in the water. Let the leeks stand in the water for about 5 minutes. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl.
To drain the leeks lift them into a colander with your fingers. Do not pour the leeks and water into the colander since the settled dirt at the bottom of the bowl will just pour right over and redirty the leeks. Run some clean water over the leeks in the colander to get rid of any dirt that might still be lingering.
Once drained, dry the leeks with some paper towels. They should be ready for cooking by now.
Dice the potatoes.
Chop the onion. Don’t worry about getting the onion too small since the soup will be pureed after cooking.
Now we are ready to cook. Melt the butter in the bottom of a large soup pot. I like to use butter rather than oil, since it adds nice flavor and coats the vegetables well for cooking. Butter is more authentically Irish anyway.
Add the chopped leeks and potato to the pot. Stir well to coat. Turn the heat down to low.
Toss in the onion and mix well together.
Cover the pot and allow the vegetables to cook slowly, by ‘sweating’ for 15 minutes. Every 3 minutes remove the lid and stir the vegetables to prevent sticking.
When the vegetables are beginning to soften, add the vegetable broth. You can use all vegetable broth, or use 2 cups of water and 2 cups of broth. Chicken stock can also be used if you are not concerned about keeping the soup totally vegetarian.
Next add a the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. These will be removed at the end of cooking.
Season the soup with white pepper. Black pepper will leave little specks in the soup when it is pureed, so white works much better. The flavor of white pepper is more traditionally Irish also. Growing up in Ireland, we always kept white pepper in our pepper shaker for the kitchen table, not the typical black pepper of America.
Add salt if desired. I forgot to add salt in my ingredient picture above. I find store bought stocks are quite salty to begin with so I sometimes skip adding salt.
Turn up the heat to bring the soup to simmering point. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat to low and let it cook for another 20 to 25 minutes. Once cooked, remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender. If you don’t have one of these the soup can be transferred in batches to a blender, then pureed. Return the soup to the pot once it is smooth.
Add the heavy whipping cream and stir into the soup. I use a half cup, but if you really like creamy soup, use up to 1 cup of cream.
Serve warm garnished with chopped chives and bacon bits if desired. Irish brown bread is a perfect accompaniment to this creamy potato soup with a delicate onion flavor.
Here is the printable recipe:
Wishing you all happy soup making.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom