asparagus soup

April 17, 2010

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here a bit but I can’t help it. Spring is in the air even though it’s still only mid-April, and things are popping up in the garden. Rhubarb, chives, leafy greens. Asparagus is soon to follow. This recipe is from a really un-vegan cookbook called Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Great cookbook but getting a little dusty on my shelf these days. I’ve modified the recipe several ways and, alas, it’s still awesome. Oil instead of butter. No cream. The author, Simon Hopkinson, peels his asparagus and purees it into a very refined “elixir” as he calls it. I don’t. I love the “country” version with its more robust texture. And “just to know” (my 8 year-olds expression that makes me smile each time he says it), last year I bought pounds of fresh asparagus to make this soup. I made soup until I was sick of it. But it still wasn’t enough. We piled through it in no time, asparagus season ended, and I went into withdrawal. Moral of the story? Make way more than you think you need!

Oh, and one more thing. This is true for any cooking, but with really exposed recipes like this, the better the ingredients, the better the finished product. Don’t cut corners. Use good olive oil. Buy really nice, organic leeks. Make some home-made vegetable stock. You’ll thank yourself.

1/2 cup really good olive oil

4 small leeks, trimmed and chopped

3 cups veggie stock

1 potato, peeled and chopped

salt and pepper

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and peeled

Heat the oil and stew the leeks until soft. Add the stock and potato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 15 minutes. Quickly chop the asparagus, add to the soup. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Blend thoroughly. Check the seasoning. This soup is equally good hot or cold.

Photo credit: Kristina, Lovely Morning

veggie stock

February 28, 2010

vgourmet, Ruth Richardson, veggie stock, soup stock, vegan stock, vegetable stock

I’m making the Potato Leek Soup right now (as promised to my 8-year-old, Sammy, last night, based on his adorable comment). I realize as I wait for the soup to simmer away that I should also give you my stock recipe. There is probably nothing as comforting as the smell of veggie stock simmering away on the stove. The aroma fills the house with its age-old medicinal power to cure what ails you.

Stock recipes don’t vary much across the board but the original idea for this one in particular came from a cooking class I took at Harvest Restaurant with Chef Michael Potters. He sautés the veggies before adding water. I don’t. I just stick it all in a big pot and let it stew away. He also adds wine at the end which I don’t. For me the jury is still out on that one. I know a lot  of chefs who roast their veggies beforehand which gives the stock a deeper flavour and a bit more sweetness. However you decide to make it, make a huge batch in a big stock pot and then freeze it in different size containers. I love having stock around for soup, risotto, paella, or just cooking vegetables stove-top. I’ve come to believe that it’s one thing you should never buy because there is no comparison between home-made and store-bought stock. Freeze it in large containers (for soups etc.) and small (ice-cube trays for sautéed veggies). Use liberally.

12 cups cold water

2 medium onions (any colour), peeled and quartered

6 medium young sweet carrots, chopped in large chunks

4 celery stalks, chopped in large chunks

4 leeks, topped and chopped in half

8 unpeeled garlic cloves

2 small bulbs fennel, quartered

1 large bouquet garni (thyme, rosemary, oregano, other robust herbs of choice)

20 peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Put water in a heavy, large stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. As the water is coming to a boil, clean and chop onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and fennel. Add them to the water.

Next add the garlic, bouquet garni, peppercorns, and bay leaves.  Once water reaches a boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 – 20 minutes, skimming the surface of the stock to eliminate residue.

If you want to add some wine, add a cup or so and let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes. If not, turn off the heat and let the stock cool before straining out the vegetables. The stock will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge, or can be packed into containers and stored for several weeks in the freezer.

potato leek soup

January 16, 2010

vgourmet, vegan soup, vegan potato leek soup, Ruth Richardson
I just made this soup on Sunday – a merger between two beautiful potato leek soup recipes. The kids love it and it’s fantastic on a cold winter’s night. Great with a little crostini floating on an ocean of flavour. And the non-vegan boys in the house love it sprinkled with a little crispy crumbled bacon. As with any good soup recipe, you might as well make a huge batch and keep some in the freezer for a rainy day.

10 medium leeks

olive oil

sea salt

8 cups veggie stock

1 stalk celery

a few sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small bunch rosemary

2 cloves garlic

1 pd yellow potatoes

white wine vinegar

sea salt and pepper to taste

a few sprigs parsley

Clean leeks. Cut in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add leeks and cook until just tender – they should still be slightly crunchy and bright green. Salt to taste. Add veggie stock along with minced garlic and a bouquet garni made of thyme, celery, bay leaf, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add potatoes, cut into small cubes.

Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook until veggies are tender but not falling apart. Puree in a food processor or blender. Season to taste with about 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and more salt if necessary. Serve hot garnished with a little chopped parsley and a few grinds of the peppermill, and if you wish, with grilled or toasted slices of bread.