Cooking

Zucchini And Leek Soup

Zucchini and leeks combine to make a wonderfully green soup. Light and refreshing, this soup can be served hot or cold, but being ever so Irish, I like it hot.

Inspired by the more traditional Irish recipe for potato and leek soup, I love to make this soup when I have lots of zucchini on hand. Or perhaps I should give this soup its European name, courgette and leek soup.

Zucchini or courgette and leek soup

I remember when I first came to America, I had no idea what on earth a zucchini might be. I remember searching for courgettes in the grocery store only to spot them under the strangely named sign “zucchini”.

And then I checked a little closer and discovered that what I called an aubergine bore the strange title of “egg plant” in the good old USA.

My ongoing American evolution continued at the grocery store with never ending culinary lessons and naming tips.

At the end of every summer I often hear my green thumbed neighbors searching for zucchini recipes, when they are blessed with an abundant crop of these nutritious and easy-to-grow vegetables.  This soup is my answer to their recipe pleas.

And so without further ado, here is my recipe for zucchini and leek, or courgette and leek soup.

Remember, it’s green coloring makes it perfect for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Ingredients for zucchini and leek soup

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini (washed and sliced)
1 large leek or 2 small leeks (washed and sliced)
2 oz butter
1 carrot (peeled and sliced)
1 potato (peeled and sliced)
6 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to season
1/4 cup whipping cream
parsley (to garnish if desired)

 Washing Leeks

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables carefully. Leeks can contain dirt trapped between the inner layers of the vegetables, so it’s very important to wash them well. If you need some tips on how to wash and prepare leeks check out my recipe for potato and leek soup.

Sliced courgettes or zucchini, potato and carrot for soup
Wash the zucchini, then slice them skin and all. I find the outer skin adds flavor to this soup.  Peel and slice the carrot and potato.
Melting butter in a dutch oven for soup

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or pan.

Add the sliced vegetables and stir to completely cover them in butter. This coating of butter is important for sweating the vegetables and helping them to not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Sliced zucchini, leeks, potato and carrot for soup

Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to sweat the vegetables.

Shake the pot occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking. It’s important not to brown the vegetables, but merely to soften them in the steamy pot.

Adding stock to zucchini and leek soup
Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can use vegetable stock for this soup too if you prefer vegetarian recipes. I like the taste of chicken stock with the leeks, but the choice of stock is completely personal.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes.  Remember, gentle heat is very important for cooking soups.

Tender vegetables in stock before pureeing soup

When simmered enough, the vegetables will be fork tender. The trick to a nicely textured soup is to cook the zucchini and the leeks long enough to make them nice and soft before whizzing them with the blender.

Puréeing soup with an immersion blender
Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly before blending it until smooth. An immersion blender works great, or else blend it in batches in a liquidizer.

Adding whipping cream to soup purée

Add the cream and stir well to blend completely. Reheat over a gentle heat without boiling.

Pot of zucchini and leek soup

Serve this soup warm or cold, and garnish with parsley if desired.

Zucchini and leek soup with brown bread

Irish brown bread is a tasty accompaniment to this soup. Irish potato bread is another great partner for soup.

But whether you like your soup all on its lonesome, or with a nice slice of bread, I hope you enjoy this zucchini and leek soup as much as I do.

Here’s the printable recipe:

Zucchini And Leek Soup

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Meal type Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium zucchini (washed and sliced)
  • 1 Large leek (washed and sliced)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 carrot (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 potato (peeled and sliced)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

Optional

  • parsley (to garnish)

Directions

Step 1 Melt the butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or pan. Add the sliced vegetables and stir to completely cover in butter.
Step 2 Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to sweat the vegetables. Shake the pot occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking. Do not brown the vegetables.
Step 3 Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4 Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes. The vegetables will be fork tender.
Step 5 Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly before blending it until smooth.
Step 6 Add the cream and stir well to blend completely. Reheat over a gentle heat without boiling.
Step 7 Garnish with parsley, if desired, before serving.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Curried Parsnip Crisps

Curried parsnip crisps are a perfect garnish for soup, a healthier alternative to store bought crisps or chips, or a simple tasty snack. 

Baked in the oven, these crispy vegetable wafers can be seasoned and spiced up whatever way you choose.

Parsnip chips as a soup garnish

I love to add these flavorful parsnip shavings to the top of parsnip and apple soup -they’re a simple, elegant garnish. They’re also great to pass around as nibblers with soup.

Parsnip crisps is what I like to call these tasty morsels, but I suppose in America they might be called parsnip chips. However, these shavings are thin and crispy, not thick and chunky like an Irish chip, so the name parsnip crisps describes them perfectly.

And you won’t believe how easy they are to make.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder

 

Shaved parsnip for parsnip chips

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel the parsnip, and discard the skins, so you won’t get them mixed up with the parsnip shavings.

Using the vegetable peeler, scrape thin wafers down the length of the parsnip. Don’t worry if they split halfway down.

Keep turning and shaving the parsnip until you reach the woody core at the center. Throw this away, since it produces coarser, less tasty crisps. (If, like me, you go by the motto waste not want not, you can always toss the parsnip core into the pot when you’re making stock).

Oil and curry powder for parsnip chips

Next, pour the oil into a bowl and mix in the curry powder. I love the flavor of curry with parsnips. Season the oil with salt and pepper if desired. I find these crisps are just fine without any added sodium when spiced up with curry powder.

Chili and Mexican spices work well too. Feel free to experiment with your favorites.

Tossing shaved parsnip in oil and curry powder

 Next, toss the parsnip shavings in the seasoned oil to coat them fully.

Parsnip chips on baking tray

Parsnip crisps can be deep fried in oil, but I prefer to bake mine in a hot oven.

Lay the parsnip shavings in a single layer on a baking tray.

Pop them in the oven for about 5 minutes. Turn them at this point, and then pop them back in for another 5 to 10 minutes. 

These crisps are very thin, so they can burn easily. Since temperatures vary from oven to oven, watch them closely so they do not burn.

Parsnip chips on paper towel

Remove them from the oven and lay them on some paper towels to remove any excess oil.

Once they cool a little they’re ready to eat.

I just can’t help sneaking a few before they ever adorn a soup bowl.

These little snacks are simply delicious, and my kids love them.

Parsnip, apple and curry soup in a shamrock bowl

I hope you enjoy this recipe for a simple vegetable garnish to dress up soups.

Here’s the printable recipe:

Parsnip Crisps

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Meal type Snack
Parsnip crisps are a healthier alternative to store bought crisps or chips, and are a simple tasty snack. They can even be used to garnish soups and salads.

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium parsnip
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Directions

Step 1 Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2 Peel the parsnip and discard the skins. Using a vegetable peeler, scrape thin wafers down the length of the parsnip. Keep shaving the parsnip until you reach the woody core. Throw this away.
Step 3 Pour the oil into a bowl and mix in the curry powder. Toss the parsnip shavings in the seasoned oil to coat them fully.
Step 4 Spread the parsnip shavings in a single layer on a baking tray.
Step 5 Bake in the 400 degree F. oven for 5 minutes. Turn them at this point, and return them to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Check the parsnip crisps frequently, since they can burn easily.
Step 6 Transfer the cooked crisps to a layer of paper towels to cool.
Step 7 Serve as a snack, or use to garnish soups and salads.

Happy snacking.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Parsnip and Apple Soup

Parsnips and apples, with a hint of curry, compliment each other perfectly in this creamy soup.

The pairing of parsnips with apples intensifies their sweetness, with an added underlying warmth from the curry powder, making this soup truly satisfying.

I love curry flavor, like many Irish people.  A teaspoon of mild curry powder, a hint of ginger and black pepper create a mildly spicy flavor level, but rest assured, this isn’t an overly hot soup, merely one that tantalizes the taste buds.

Parsnip and apple soup with curried parsnip chips

Heavy rain and blustery winds are always a reminder the season for hats, scarves and gloves is just around the corner. But as the colder days of winter beckon, there’s always comfort to be found in the kitchen.

The right soup is perfect comfort food. There is something reassuring about holding a mug of warm soup, blowing gently to cool it before it works its magic, warming the heart.

Parsnip and apple soup is smooth and creamy, and for me is certainly one of the best comforting soups in my recipe box.

Parsnips appear to be far less popular in America than they are in Ireland. They are a staple on most Irish dinner menus, and I remember eating them at least once a week when I was a kid in Ireland.

And so, I decided why not make a parsnip soup…. or for some crazy reason, my brain keeps saying parsnip snoup.

Anyway, here’s my recipe …..

Ingredients for parsnip and apple soup

Ingredients:

 

  • 2 oz butter
  • 3 large parsnips
  • 1 medium apple (Granny Smith or a cooking apple if you’re in Ireland)
  • 1 medium potato (or 2 small potatoes)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and plenty pepper to season

 

Directions:

 

This is a very simple soup. Start by peeling and chopping the shallots into slices. Peel and dice the potatoes and parsnips into 1 inch pieces.

Sweating vegetables - parsnips, shallots and potato

The first step involves sweating the vegetables. If you need to learn more about the technique of sweating vegetables, check out my post on soup making tips.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped shallots, parsnips and potato.

I use shallots rather than an onion, since their flavor is a little milder, but if you can’t get your hands on shallots, one onion will work just fine.

For this soup in particular I like to add the spices before sweating the vegetables. This helps deepen the spicy flavors in the finished soup.

So, stir in the curry powder and ginger and mix the vegetables so they are completely coated in the spices.

Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, but avoid lifting the lid and allowing the trapped steam escape.

Adding broth to parsnip soup

Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

I like to add a good dash of pepper to this soup, but seasoning is a very personal step in any recipe. For my palate, pepper seems to compliment the flavor of the parsnips.

Adding chopped apple to parsnip soup

Next, add the chopped apple and simmer the soup for a further 10 minutes.

Parsnip soup prior to blending

Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly.

I love how the apple pieces just bob and bounce on the surface of the soup.

Adding cream to parsnip and apple soup

Purée the soup until the texture is completely smooth using an immersion blender or in batches using a liquidizer or blender.

Add the cream to the soup and mix through. Reheat gently, without boiling, before serving.

Parsnip, apple and curry soup in a shamrock bowl

And there, you have it – a simple soup made with a favorite Irish vegetable. I love to serve this soup with curried parsnip chips as a garnish – they’re simply delicious.

Here’s my printable recipe:

Parsnip and Apple Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 50 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Soup
Parsnips and apples, with a hint of curry, compliment each other perfectly in this creamy soup. The pairing of parsnips with apples intensifies their sweetness, with an added underlying warmth from the curry powder, making this soup truly satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 2oz butter
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 parsnips
  • 1 apple (Granny Smith or a cooking apple)
  • 1 potato (1 medium or 2 small)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (add extra for increased spiciness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to season

Directions

Step 1 Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped shallots, parsnips and potato.
Step 2 Stir in the curry powder and ground ginger. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, but avoid lifting the lid and allowing the trapped steam escape.
Step 3 Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 4 Add the chopped apple and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Step 5 Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Purée until smooth using an immersion blender or in batches using a liquidizer or blender.
Step 6 Add the cream to the soup and mix through. Reheat gently, without boiling, before serving.

Wishing you all happy soup making during these chilly days of fall and winter.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

P.S. My Irish shamrock soup bowl was made by Colm De Ris, an Irish potter.

Rutabaga And Carrot Soup

Rutabagas and carrots make a comforting, slightly sweet soup.  The combination of deep orange carrots and pale yellow rutabaga flesh, produces an amber colored soup, just perfect for fall.

And so, to kick off my soup making recipes for this autumn season, I thought it might be a good idea to start with a simple, easy-to-make soup, using the rutabaga, a vegetable I believe is not fully appreciated in America.

Rutabaga

Firstly, let’s name this soup correctly……

 

Is it rutabaga and carrot soup?

 

Swede and carrot?

 

Turnip and carrot? or….

 

Neeps and carrot soup?

 

Well, the answer depends on where you live, in the world, and since most of my readers are living in America, I’m naming it “rutabaga and carrot” soup.

“Rutabaga” is the common American and Canadian term for this yellow root we plan to turn into soup. The name comes from the Swedish word Rotabagge, which apparently means “root bag”. This vegetable has also been called  “yellow turnip” on the western shores of the Atlantic.

In other parts of the English speaking world, “swede” is the preferred term, because it is in fact a Swedish turnip. The name swede, for short, was adopted in England, where a true turnip has whiter flesh, and is about the size of a tennis ball. But for some strange reason the English swede and the American rutabaga is always referred to as a turnip in Ireland.

Now to confuse matters further, said vegetable is sometimes referred to as “neeps” in Scotland. Like the Irish, Scottish people call the swede a turnip, and neeps is a derivation of the term “new turnips”. So when you’re throwing together some “neeps and haggis” reach for a rutabaga, not those wee things English people and Americans call turnips.

 

 A Little Irish Turnip History:

 

The turnip features prominently in the annals of Irish history during the time of the Great Hunger (1845-1850).

 

“They were to the starving ones supposed to be a “God-send,”

and were eaten with great avidity, both cooked and raw.”

from Annals Of The Famine In Ireland – Chapter VI (2)
1851 by Asenath Nicholson

 

Fire was a scarce commodity for many of the poor during these hungry years, since they were too weak to cut and harvest turf. Therefore, they cooked only the turnip greens, while the tuber was eaten raw.

But turnips were not as nutritious as the potato, and had to be eaten in great bulk to sustain life. However, those who were sick and dying were offered turnips to eat ……

 

…….”not because of its nutrition, but because of the absence of it,

not having sufficient to injure the weakest body.”

from Annals Of The Famine In Ireland – Chapter VI (2)
1851 by Asenath Nicholson

 

During the famine years, growing turnips was advocated as an alternative to potatoes, and ever since the lowly vegetable has been cultivated extensively in Ireland.

 

Turnips – The Original Jack-O-Lanterns

 

Originally Jack-O-Lanterns were created in Ireland and Scotland by chiseling out a turnip or rutabaga, and placing hot embers or coals inside.  The light represented the souls of the dead, and was used to ward off “Stingy Jack,” a notorious fellow who made a deal with the devil.

When the Irish came across the waters to the United States they started to make Jack O’Lanterns at Halloween, replacing the Irish turnip with the more plentiful American pumpkin.  Artistically inclined carvers started to create faces on larger pumpkins, which were far easier to pulp than the old rock-hard turnips of their homeland.

And finally, after all that rambling, here’s my soup recipe ….

 

Ingredients for Rutabaga and Carrot Soup:

 

Ingredients for Rutabaga and Carrot Soup

  •  2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium rutabaga diced
  • 2 large carrots sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • black pepper
  • salt to season
  • 1/4 cup of fresh whipping cream (optional)

Peeling and chopping a rutabaga is simpler than it might seem. My step-by-step rutabaga handling instructions can be found here.

Sweating vegetables for soup

Melt the butter in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the carrots, turnips and onion, stirring them well to completely coat them in butter. 

Cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes to soften them. Shake the pan every 3 minutes to prevent any sticking, but resist the temptation to lift the lid. Trapping the steam in the pot is key to building up a good vegetable sweat.

Adding chicken broth for rutabaga and carrot soup

Add the stock and season well with salt and pepper. I like plenty of freshly ground black pepper in this soup.

Bring the soup to boiling point, lower the heat. then cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are nice and tender.

Simmering turnip and carrot soup

Turn the heat off and let the soup cool a little before blending it.

Pureeing turnip soup

I use my hand held blender to blitz the vegetables, but a regular stand-up blender can also be used. Complete the process in batches if using a regular blender.

Cream and rutabaga and carrot soup

And finally, add the cream. This step is optional, but I love the extra depth of flavor cream lends to this soup. You can add the cream in the pot and blitz the soup again, or do as I do, and add a spoon of cream to each bowl before serving.

Here’s the printable recipe:

Rutabaga and Carrot Soup

Serves 10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 5 minutes
Meal type Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 Medium rutabaga (diced)
  • 2 Large carrots
  • 1 Large onion (chopped)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • black pepper
  • salt

Optional

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

Directions

Step 1 Melt the butter in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the carrots, turnips and onion, stirring them well to completely coat them in butter.
Step 2 Cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes to soften them.
Step 3 Add the stock and season well with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to boiling point, lower the heat, then cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.
Step 4 Turn the heat off and let the soup cool a little before blending it.
Step 5 Add the cream and stir into the soup. Serve warm.

This soup is a tribute to the humble rutabaga. I love it’s uniquely sweet and peppery flavors.

Happy soup making!

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Slow Cooker or Crockpot Chicken Stock

Chicken stock lends a robust flavor to all kinds of soups, and can be made inexpensively using the left-over carcass from a roast chicken. Many chicken stock recipes involve simmering a whole chicken, but growing up in Ireland we always used left-over “skeletons” for our stocks.

“Waste not, want not” was the motto of my childhood days, and no chicken carcass was cast into the rubbish bin before it yielded the nutritional goodness buried within its bones.

Chicken Stock

When I was young, stock simmering was done on the stove top in a large pot. Since coming to America I’ve discovered the wonders of a crock pot for creating delicious stock, and for cooking soups and stews.

When stock is slowly simmering over an open flame or electric burner, I never feel safe leaving the house. One of the glories of a crock pot is the ability to set it and forget it.

My roast chicken left overs spend a day in my crock pot before finally being discarded.

And so, to kick off my soup making recipe season, I thought the best place to start is with a good basic chicken stock.

Here’s my recipe for slow cooker chicken stock.

Ingredients for Chicken Stock

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large chicken carcass
  • 1 onion cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots cut in 2 inch chunks
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 6 to 8 parsley stalks
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 cups cold water
  • pinch of salt

Chicken Stock Ingredients in a Crockpot or Slow Cooker

Cooking Directions:

 

  • Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a large slow cooker. I use a 5-quart size. Make sure the water level is at least 1/2″ below the top of the bowl.
  • Set the crock pot on low. It will slowly heat. Allow the stock to simmer for 8 to 10 hours.  If the liquid level goes down as the stock cooks, top it up with more water after 4 hours of cooking.
  • Turn the heat off and allow the stock to cool slightly before passing it through a fine strainer. I remove the larger bones and vegetable pieces before straining the stock. Discard the left-over vegetables and chicken bones.
  • Refrigerate the stock for up to 3 to 4 days before using or freeze it for up to 3 months.

 

And there you have it – simple, easy-to-make, budget-friendly chicken stock using this girl’s best kitchen friend, her crock pot.

As I share more and more of my soup recipes in the coming months, I’ll link back to this basic recipe whenever I recommend chicken stock for a particular soup.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom