If you’ve been reading along, you’ve no doubt heard me talk about my Irish ancestors and about our trip to Ireland a few years ago. I wish that I had started this blog when we took that trip. However, that wouldn’t happen for another year yet, so I wasn’t focused on photographing all the wonderful food we enjoyed while we were there.
I do recall several notable and remarkable meals that we enjoyed during those ten days. The Irish breakfasts we had each morning with fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, and delicious whole grain breads. It was wonderful to wake up with the anticipation of that each day.
Then there was afternoon tea. A lovely time to relax with a warm cup and a nibble before heading out to do or see one more exciting thing before dinner time. Oh, and I can’t forget, ever, the bread and butter pudding. Oh my word. How I’d love to have some of that bread and butter pudding right now. Creamy, luscious, and loaded with plump, juicy sultanas. Ummmm…
But the thing that I remember most of all is the potatoes. Potatoes with everything it seemed. No matter what we ordered, it came with a side of potatoes. And, oh my gosh, how delicious were those potatoes! Always fried and always, always crisp on the outside and soft and almost creamy on the inside. I had absolutely no problem being served those potatoes at every meal.
The one thing, though, that was notably absent from menus in Ireland was corned beef and cabbage. See, that’s not really native to Ireland. It somehow became associated with Irish immigrants in America and later became a St. Patrick’s Day standard here, but not there. If you find it in Ireland, it will be in places that cater to the tourist trade. Irish folks themselves don’t identify it as part of their culture.
So, in homage to real Irish cooking, I’m sharing with you a fairly traditional Leek and Potato Soup. It’s my own recipe based on many I’ve read over the years and I hope I’ve done my Irish ancestors proud with this one. It’s simple, honest cooking made with the best, freshest ingredients available to me. I hope that’s a fair way to pay tribute to my roots.
Start by prepping the leeks. Cut off the root end and the tough, darker green ends and discard them. You want to use only the white and lightest green parts for your soup. Cut through the leeks from top to bottom and then cut crosswise. Leeks typically have a bit of dirt inside between the layers, so you need to wash them thoroughly. I find the best way is to put the cut leeks in a big bowl of cold water. Rub them together gently to separate the layers and agitate the dirt. Let them sit for a while and the dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. The leeks will float on top of the water, and all you need to do is lift them gently out of the water leaving the dirt in the bowl. Don’t pour them off or you’ll end up with the dirt right back in the leeks!
Put the cleaned leeks on a thickness of paper towels to drain while you proceed.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into rough chunks. Do the same with the onion.
Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, and potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Saute, stirring gently, for 5-6 minutes or until the onion and leeks have softened but are not brown. Add the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are quite tender.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the croutons and bacon.
For the bacon: cook 4 slices thick cut bacon. Crumble and set aside. For the croutons: trim the crusts from 4 slices of whole wheat bread. Cut the bread into cubes. Toast the croutons in a skillet with 2 tablespoons butter, and a dash of salt and pepper.
Remove the pot from the heat and use either an immersion blender or food processor to blend the soup to your desired degree of smoothness. Stir in the Half and Half or light cream. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with snipped fresh chives, croutons, and bacon.
Even though you may think of this as a winter soup, it’s really good all year round. In the winter, I serve it with the garnishes here – bacon, croutons, and chives. But in the summer, it’s great to serve chilled with just the chives for garnish. Either way, it’s always delicious!
Other Irish recipes you might enjoy from previous posts:
- Champ – A St. Patrick’s Day Tribute to My Irish Ancestors
- Irish Currant Scones
- Irish Spiced Fruitcake
- Beef and Stout Pie
- Home Fries
Internet resources for traditional Irish recipes: