Today’s Meatless Monday is Soup. Hearty potatoes, leeks and corn, with cheddar cheese and heavy cream to finishing its thick chowder base, it will stick to the ribs and satisfy even your most ardent meat and potatoes lover. Without the meat.
Last week I was really down in the dumps thinking that Soup Season may be over for the year; then I read the forecast for this week. It’s filled with plunging temperatures, thunderstorms and snow. Suddenly, my heart was glad because that is Soup Weather! I know everyone is anxious for Spring; I’m right there with you. I also know, before too long, we’re all going to be whining about how hot it is; and we’ll be dreaming of the clear skies and chilly mornings of autumn that herald a new season of soups.
And yes, soups can be eaten all year. But living in the South, it’s really hard to convince even a die-hard soup lover like me to eat soup when it’s sweltering, sticky, humid, suffocatingly hot, like our summers get.
I suppose I’m a “mood eater.” I think I just made that up, but bear with me. Mood Eaters, like actors, need to have the stage properly set; the props need to be in place. For instance, with soup. Here are my ideal props:
- Frosty mornings where the frozen dew clings to spider webs in the bare trees, swaying like tattered curtains on the window of a leafless world (insertion of drama – snort)
- Icy winds blowing (not from air-conditioning)
- Gray, short days
- A chill, deep in the bones
- A crackling fire in the fireplace, warming the hearth
- Steam rising from a copper pot, gleaming on the stove top
That is Soup Season; the final curtain is about to draw to a close. But while it lasts I’m eating soup…lots of soup. And this is one of my favourites. It is so filled with flavour, it’ll knock your wooly socks right off your frozen feet. You won’t mind, though…you’ll be toasty warm and satisfied from the inside out after eating this soup.
First let me talk about potatoes and soup. This is a creamy, chowder-like soup. It is meant to be thick. One of the things that will aid that thickening process is the starch in the potatoes. This means you need to use a starchy potato if you want this effect. Waxy potatoes, like a Yukon Gold, will not work. I used Russet potatoes in this soup because they are starchy. I also left the skins on the potatoes. Leaving the skin intact can add nutrients to the meal. The potato, as well as the skin, are great sources of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium and other nutrients, with higher concentrations in the skin. Plus, it’s faster than having to peel them. Win!
As an aside, I often make this soup using bacon fat instead of butter, and garnish it with crisp crumbles of bacon on the top. Since I was making it for Meatless Monday, I didn’t do that. It is absolutely fabulous, both ways.
This recipe is simple and easy to throw together; while it can simmer all day (further thickening as the potatoes fall apart), it can also be ready in about 40 minutes (preparation and cooking time included), but won’t be as thick.
Not only is this soup flavourful, but it is vibrant with colour. You eat with the eye as well as the palate, right? So, dish up some soup. Get it before it’s hot. Outside.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup celery, diced
- 2 leeks, sliced, washed, drained (about 2 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups starchy potatoes, washed, skin on, diced (I used Russets.)
- 32 ounces stock (I used chicken, but you could use vegetable)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 cups frozen corn (no need to thaw - if using canned, drain)
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
- Optional garnishes: sour cream, chopped green onions, additional grated cheddar, crispy bacon bits
- In a large stock pot, over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the celery, leeks, garlic and red bell pepper and saute for about 4 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir, continuing to cook for another 4 minutes, or so.
- Add the potatoes, stock, thyme, corn, and salt and pepper, to taste.
- Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender (at this point, you could lower the temperature to low and simmer until the potatoes completely fall apart).
- Add the cream and Cheddar cheese and stir to combine.
- Simmer for an additional few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
- Serve in warm bowls and garnish, as desired.