I love soup night. It's an easy dinner to make and I really enjoying mopping up a bowl of soup with fresh bread - straight out of the bread maker (on long term loan from my Dad) which some might say is cheating, but it still tastes good!
On the menu tonight was leek and potato, our number one favourite. I don't bother with a recipe book, and I'm a throw-it-all-in-the-pot soup maker as well which is why it's so quick and easy. If you'd like to have a go, this is how I make ours.
You will need:
Leeks - about three medium-sized
Potatoes - two to three medium-sized depending on how thick you like your soup
About a litre of water
Salt, pepper, mixed herbs to taste
Large pan to cook it all in
Blender or hand-blender if, like us, you prefer smooth soups
Starting with the leeks, I cut off the bottom inch and the top leaves just past the end of the main stem and remove the outside layer of leaf. Wash the leeks, taking care to get out any soil that may have become trapped in the inner layers.
Chop roughly and add to the pan. I always make soup in this pan; it makes just the right amount for the four of us. It was given to us as a wedding present (I have a bit of a soft spot for Portmeirion kitchenware; I love the huge flowers, especially the passion flowers) and although it's got a few war wounds now where the lid's been dropped and the enamel's chipped, it's still going strong.
If you like chunky soup, you may want to be more careful about your chopping, but as mine goes through the blender I don't worry about it too much. Many soup recipes suggest frying the leeks in butter or oil at this point, but I don't do that; I'm sure there's a technical reason why you should but I don't find that our soup is lacking in flavour from not doing that.
Next, I peel and chop the potatoes. Again, these are in large chunks but you might want to make them smaller. The more potatoes you add, the thicker your soup will be. I've used red potatoes tonight but any variety is fine.
Add the stock cube, water, salt and pepper and herbs. I use about a teaspoonful of dried herbs at this time of year. Bring the water to the boil.
Soup only takes as long to cook as it takes for your vegetables to soften, so you can actually make it in about twenty minutes. My preference is to bring the water to the boil and then put the pan in the bottom (simmering) oven of my Aga where the temperature is very low and leave it for a couple of hours. You can get the same effect in a conventional oven by using a low heat, or by using a slow cooker. The best thing about cooking like this is that you're not losing any of the goodness of the vegetables because you won't be draining any of the liquid off, and because it's soup it doesn't matter if the vegetables are over-cooked as you eat it with a spoon anyway.
Once the vegetables are cooked, transfer them to a blender and whizz it up until it's smooth. The advantage of doing this is that if you happened to be the kind of person who wanted to, say, sneak some extra vegetables into the soup without anybody noticing (particularly small people who might otherwise poke at it and say "urgh" without even trying it), then the blending process hides all manner of extra ingredients and nobody ever notices that they're eating more veg than they expected. (Not that any of us would ever feel the need to be that sneaky, of course. Not even when the courgette plants in the garden have gone into overdrive and there seems to be no way of getting anyone to eat the glut.) If it turns out a bit thick, simply add more water and bring it back to the boil. If it's too thin, you can add cornflour to thicken it up, just as you would with a sauce. Taste for seasoning.
Finally, swirl some cream into your soup if you'd like to, then it's time to sit down and enjoy your meal!
Another benefit of soup night is that there's not so much washing up - always a bonus! If you've made too much, the soup will keep for a day or two (and actually tastes better the day after) or you can freeze it as long as you haven't put any cream into it.
Mmm. Soup night. What's not to like?