A very long time between posts and plenty of new content planned but I thought I’d start with something quick and easy. Both to cook and for me to write up while I get my blogging mojo back into gear.
Here in Adelaide we’re in the depths of winter. After a couple of deceptively sunny days, Mother Nature has spent this week throwing everything at us. Not only has it been cold but it’s been wet too. Great for the garden, not quite enough rain for those involved in agricultural pursuits …
My go-to winter food is soup. I love it. Unfortunately, Andy isn’t such a fan so we don’t eat quite as much of it as I’d like … but fortunately the need to very quickly dream up a meal meant that leek and potato soup, topped with tons of bacon and chives was on the menu. It’s also fortuitous that I’ve just completed a bread making course, thanks to Le Cordon Bleu (details on that to follow) so we had some potato and rosemary sourdough bread ready to go – the perfect accompaniment!
I’ve written about soups before – and this is in the same vein. It’s hardly a recipe – it’s more about the flavour combinations. If you like your soup thicker, use more potato and less water/stock. If you like it thinner … use more water/stock. I think that a good rule of thumb is to cook the soup with the water just covering the ingredients and then let it down if you want to, after you’ve blitzed.
Serve with fresh bread, or toasted bread, thickly spread with butter!
Warm the olive oil in a big pan and add the chopped onion and leek. Sweat them down until they're relatively soft, but avoid the temptation to crank up the heat, as you don't want them to pick up too much colour.
Add the chopped potato and the stock so that the vegetables are just covered and boil (covered, otherwise you'll evaporate off the liquid!) until the potatoes are cooked. The smaller you cut the potatoes, the less time this will take. Keep an eye on it as it cooks, as even with the lid on you may need to add a bit more liquid.
As the soup is cooking, cut the bacon up into small pieces (lardons, if you like) and fry them off in a separate pan. We like them nice and crispy.
Once the potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and blitz the soup until it's nice and smooth. At this point, add more stock or water if it's looking too thick for your taste. Adjust the seasoning too.
When you're ready to serve, ensure everything is hot, then ladle the soup into bowls, topping with bacon and chopped chives.
For a week or so, winter threatened to make an appearance here in Adelaide. But then it disappeared and we’ve had the warmest couple of May weeks for about 100 years.
Which is a shame because I love winter food. I not only love eating it but I love that so often it is the type of food you can prepare well in advance and then just pop into the oven after a long day at work, leaving the cook with nothing more strenuous to do than crack open a bottle of red.
So now I’m busy using them up. Which isn’t a problem because I love leeks. I also love soup and while it’s not Andy’s favourite thing to eat (by a long stretch) he’ll tolerate it in small doses.
I’d also been thinking about how I hadn’t really used any of my cookbooks for a while so while I didn’t need a recipe for leek and potato soup I had a quick flick through for inspiration. Regular readers will know I have something of a soft spot for James Martin so I was pleased to find a leek, potato and Stilton soup recipe in his book The Collection. An extra bonus was that it was even less work than I was considering!
His recipe needed a few tweaks to suit what was actually available so it’s my version that follows. The critical thing here is that it’s a one pot, boil it all up trick. Go easy with the blue cheese: they vary in strength and if you add too much you’ll really notice it!
This recipe will serve four. Make sure you have plenty of good, crusty bread to hand!
1 medium sized leek, sliced in half (split) and chopped
½ large onion, roughly chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
100g blue cheese, chopped
Place stock pot (or cube) and water in a large pot and bring to the boil.
Add the leek, onion, garlic and potato to the stock and cook covered (you don't want the liquid evaporating!) until the vegetables are soft.
Add half the blue cheese and stir to melt. Then blitz the soup and check the flavour. You need to check the strength of the blue cheese flavour AFTER blitzing as it's the only way of guaranteeing the flavour is through the soup.
If you want to add more cheese, go ahead.
Finish by correcting the seasoning - it's unlikely you'll need salt though you might want to pass the pepper separately.
Serve the soup hot, with a quenelle (that's a dollop!) of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley.
More cooking (yep, those restaurant reviews are still percolating) – and while this dish looks unspectacular it’s incredibly tasty and easy to do.
If you’re a cook who’s a little frightened by the idea of roasting a whole chicken, or just someone a bit short on prep time (that’s me!) then this dish is fantastic because it’s quick, requires just the one dish (the one it’s cooked in) and can be all prepped in advance, meaning you just need to put it in the oven about 50 minutes before you want to eat.
This is a Rachel Allen recipe that has been on my to-do list for ages. As is so often the case, the cooking time given is woefully inadequate and, with the oven up so high, you do need to be wary of the vegetables in particular burning. However, that is easily solved by popping a lid on part way through cooking. This has the bonus of creating some very tasty sauce that can be served with the dish.
Sadly, it is a bit anaemic looking (not just the fault of my photography this time!). If you were so inclined you could flash the chicken thighs on a grill pan prior to serving (being careful not to dry them out though!) but I suggest that if you’re particularly worried about appearance, serve it with a bright winter salad.
Potato-wise, we used the most beautiful, tiny kipfler potatoes that Andy picked up in Blackwood from the excellent Waggon Wheels (no website). This always busy fruit and vege shop stocks all the standards but also manages to squeeze in a range of varieties that you won’t find in supermarkets or even other fruit and vege shops. It’s one of my favourite places to buy veggies.
Do not be tempted to omit (or peel!) the cloves of garlic. After cooking, the skin comes away easily and the garlic cloves are so soft and so mellow in flavour that they add real depth and warmth to the finished product.
This was a big hit – and if you need to throw something together over Easter, I recommend it.
Quantities below are for 2 people, with tons of leftovers.