As a kid I used to hate pureed soups. They just did not make sense. I hated that all the flavours were mixed together and the soup had a random vegetable taste. Furthermore, they seemed kind of deceiving – my mom could have put any undeclared vegetable in them and I wouldn’t have known. I don’t like not knowing what I’m eating. But I guess that the most disturbing feature was the random mixture of flavours that just did not make any sense.
I reconsidered vegetable soup blends only years later, when I discovered that when you just use few ingredients they taste so much better. It’s like with fruit blends and smoothies: you need to artfully combine the fruits to get the best taste possible. When you just blend random stuff, it doesn’t always taste great. Sure it’s healthy and whatnot, but food is supposed to also be good in taste! Same goes for soups: they’re healthy, it’s important to include them in your diet, but if they don’t taste good then what’s the point?
I can say I started to like pureed soups when I started making my own, with few selected ingredients. My all time favourite is one I learned to make from an aunt that lives up in the mountains in Italy – she makes the best leek and potato soup ever. It took me several attempts to get to recreate the same stuff that she makes, and now I guess I’m pretty close. Practice makes perfect, and after a couple of failed attempts that came out too leeky, I’m finally happy with my version of this soup. As in most things in
the kitchen life, the key is balance: to make the perfect leek and potato cream there has to be harmony between the two key ingredients. Since I never really knew how many potatoes to add, because they just vary too much in size, I began weighing them. The perfect equation in this soup is: the weight of the potatoes (peeled) should equal the weight of the edible part of the leeks. So I usually start by cleaning and cutting the leeks, removing the thicker leaves, and then I weigh them: I take then the same amount, in grams, of potatoes. Here are the quantities from the last time I made it.
Leek and potato cream (serves 3):
- 2 large leeks (about 400 g)
- 5 small-medium potatoes (400 g)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 l boiling water
- salt and white pepper
In a big pot heat up a little amount of olive oil. Cut the leeks in small pieces and add them gradually to the hot oil, keeping it on medium heat. Pan fry the leeks lightly, stirring often, until they get soft. Add a sprinkle of salt and white pepper in order to flavour them alone. In the meantime, dice the potatoes and bring about 1 l of water to the boil. Once the leeks get soft – about 10 minutes in – add the potatoes to the pot and then add the hot water. The ideal quantity of water is enough to just cover all the vegetables. Add a teaspoon of salt, stir it in and cover the pot. Cook the soup for about 2 hours on medium heat with the lid on, stirring from time to time, just to make sure it never sticks to the bottom (anyway it should not, as there is enough liquid and it will take it a longer while to evaporate if the lid is kept on all the time).
After about two hours, the leeks will have almost melted and the potatoes will be cooked through. Remove the soup from heat and blend it. It’s ready to serve, or it can be stored in the fridge, after it has chilled completely.
A little extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly grounded pepper and it’s even better. Although I usually like to add a little cream to soups to make them extra creamy and tasty, this one doesn’t really need it. The potatoes already make it really nice and velvety when blended, and the extra spoonful of olive oil will make it even yummier.