The delicious, spicy leek has been a national emblem of Wales as far back as the time of ancient King Cadwaladr, and with good reason, too. This marvelously versatile (though often overlooked) vegetable forms the base of this superb soup for which Wales has long been famous. This is classic comfort food, easy to make and absolutely delicious. An excellent winter soup for those in colder climes, it just so happens that we’ve made this batch in the midst of a frightfully chilly Eastern snowstorm – but we’ll be keeping warm with heavenly bowls of this “cawl,” as it is called in Wales.
What You’ll Need
– 3 quarts (12 cups) vegetable broth
– 3 leeks
– 3 or 4 medium onions, chopped
– 3 celery stalks, chopped, leaves removed and saved
– 3 carrots, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, crushed
– 3 c. white potatoes, peeled and cubed
– 1/4 c. olive oil
– 1/2 c. white wine (cooking wine is fine)
– Bouquet garni (6 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, a handful of leek tops, a handful of celery leaves)
– 1/2 t. white pepper
– 1/2 t. black pepper
– 1/4 t. sea salt
– 1 t. turmeric
– 1/4 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
– 1 t. lemon juice
To prepare the leeks, slice off the tops just at the point where the leek turns from light green to dark (about halfway up). Set the leek tops aside for the moment; they are typically not used, but may be included in your bouquet garni . Cut the root ends off of the leeks and discard, and then slice the vegetables into thin ringlets about 1/2 inch thick. Soak the leeks in cold water for a few minutes, and drain to remove any dirt or grit.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks, carrots, onions, celery and garlic and cook, partly covered, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add white wine for the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking, long enough to let the alcohol boil off.
When the vegetables are softened, and your broth has come to a boil, add the vegetables to the stock pot along with the cubed uncooked potatoes. Bring the broth back to a boil, lower the heat and cover, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked and tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet garni, and with an immersion blender puree the soup until there are no more chunks (optional but recommended). Add your spices and lemon juice, tasting after each addition to modify as you wish. (NOTE: White pepper, which pairs wonderfully with the spicy leek, is much more aromatic than black pepper. Its use is essential in this recipe, but beware – the white stuff is potent!)
Ladle into bowls, top with a garnish of chopped chives, and (as the Welsh say) “iechyd da!”