Potato Leek Soup is an Irish favorite. It is just what you need on these dwindling cold nights when old man winter still refuses to release you from his icy clutches. Making this soup is so easy. You only need about 30 minutes. The ingredients are simple: butter, leeks, potatoes, salt, pepper and stock (vegetable or chicken). I will say this, if you can find Irish butter, use it. It tastes so much fresher and creamier than U.S. butter.
Although mostly associated with Ireland, potato leek soup is also popular in Scotland where it’s known by the spunky name of “Cock-a-Leekie” It kind of sounds like a children’s outdoor game, doesn’t it? The Welsh, not to be outdone in the naming game, call potato leek soup “Tattie and Leekie”, equally amusing name isn’t it? Leeks belong to the Allium family. Basically they are in the category of onions, garlic, shallots and scallions. Among the members of this family, leeks are the mild-mannered relative. Its delicate taste lends them to many uses: sauté and put over rice or a tossed salad.
Potato Leek Soup is one of those simple ethnic dishes that probably arose out of the need to stretch the food supply. Think about it! It is pretty obvious that it is made up of leftover ingredients or at least those easily procured in a nearby/family orchard. My husband’s German aunt used to make Leek and Potato Soup and it was delicious. She did it the old fashioned way. How? Well, after everything was cooked, she would take a fine sieve and push down the solids through the mesh with a pestle. Yeah, talk about dedication! I guess if I wanted to be 100% authentic I could do it this way, maybe. Nah, I don’t have the muscle power or the patience.
Now, for the texture. I must confess, I am a texture kind of girl. I don’t like my creamy soups chunky, I like them creamy. I don’t like big chunks of anything in my soup either. Yeah, you can say I am PICKY. Soooo, needless to say, I like my leek and potato soup very smooth. Needless to say, the immersion blender is my friend. Sprinkle some chopped chives on top and drizzle on some heavy cream or sour cream. Food is also supposed to be pretty, right? And don’t forget that chunk of Irish Brown Bread. Potato leek soup wouldn’t be the same without it.
Ok, so here is a little bit of history for you: Leeks are thought to hail from Central Asia, where they’ve been cultivated for over 1,000 years. Leeks were highly esteemed in antiquity. Egyptian drawings and carvings are evidence that leeks were most likely part of the Egyptian diet. Yes, the guys that built the pyramids probably ate leeks! So how did a vegetable from Central Asia get to the British Isles? Well, it is thought that leeks were brought to Britain by the Phoenicians who traded with the Welsh. No surprise then that the leek features prominently in Welsh history as their national symbol
The Romans valued their leeks because they thought them to have medicinal benefits, especially for the throat. It will come as no surprise then that the infamous Nero, supposedly ate large quantities of leeks, to improve his singing voice out of all things! Nero liked to sing? I thought he just liked to play with fire and the fiddle. Too bad the leeks did nothing to improve his humanity.
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 leeks (whites only) finely chopped, well cleaned and rinsed
- 2 large baking potatoes peeled and cubed
- 32 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
- ¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
- chopped chive *optional for decorating
- cream for drizzling * optional
- In a large deep skillet melt the butter on medium heat.
- Add onions and allow to soften. Add the leeks and allow to cook until the leeks are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes. Turn a few times and sprinkle with cracked pepper.
- Add the broth and allow it to come to a boil.
- Turn down heat to low. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).
- Using an immersion blender, break down all the solids until the mixture is smooth. Serve with chopped chives. Drizzle with heavy cream if desired.
- Serve with Irish soda bread. Adapted from The Compete Irish Pub Cookbook