Soup can be an absolutely delicious meal. I grew up eating lots of different types, throughout the course of my life, as my father was particularly partial to them. His signature Creole style crab and Calaloo soup was well known by many who often were invited to partake in the feasting. Another great soup was Daddy’s delicious Chinese style shun or chicken soup with ginger, shiitake mushrooms and clear rice noodles. This one still remains my absolute favorite soup. I carried on the tradition of soup making for my family and I learned new combinations living in Haiti. Pumpkin soup or ‘soupe joumou‘ is a classic Haitian soup beloved not only as a delicious traditional meal, but for all of the symbolism of the 1804 Haïtian revolution. This soup is symbolic of freedom and independence for Haïti as the First Black Republic and the Mother of the Americas. It is quite common to find soups on the menu of Saturday lunches and Sunday morning brunches in Haïti.
Haitian style pumpkin soup
In English we tend to call all soups as such, but in French, there are many classifications; some of which I still confuse today, simply by referring to them all as ‘soupe‘! There are however, bouillon, (a lighter broth with the addition meat or vegetables which may be removed before serving) a potage or soupe ( hearty soup containing vegetables and meat), consommé, (clear thin broths), bisque (usually made from a base of seafood or crustaceans) and velouté ( puréed velvety soups usually with the addition of cream). Each is a specific preparation, consistency and presentation. English is so much less complicated in this respect; we just simply classify them all as soups and broth is well known as the clear thin version with all meat, bones or vegetables removed.
My take on this particular favorite soup recipe for Creamy Leek and Potato Soup came about from having the ingredients on hand after a harvest. Sometimes when I have a copious amount of fresh produce from the farm on hand, I look for ways to use them in all sorts of recipes. The potatoes are the hearty part of the soup and give the body and cream texture. The leeks provide a subtle delicious flavor; more delicate than onion, but rather aromatic with a rich undertones. The marriage of these two ingredients gives a sublime and most enjoyable outcome. These simple ingredients combine in the most wonderful way as they meld together in the cooking process. With the addition of a few other amazing additions, the result is a most pleasant bowl of luscious deliciousness in every spoon. In French, this soup is actually a velouté or creamy soup. There are no solid pieces as all the components are blended together to create a smooth velvet like texture. This recipe is one which I associate lovingly with Haïti. It’s not a soup that can be found commonly on restaurant menus, and is one which I love and associate with cool climates and mountainous terrain. The main ingredients are ones which we grow at our farm in the mountains.
Leeks or Poireaux
This creamy soup takes on a sophistication with the addition of heavy cream and cognac. The humble vegetable soup makes a subtle transformation into a classy yet most comforting meal all on its own. With the addition of fresh buttery garlic croutons and a drizzle of truffle oil atop of the creamy leek and potato soup; you will never look at these two simple vegetables the same way again.
Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
4 medium potatoes, cubed, around 2 12-3 cups
5 large leeks, chopped, around 3-4 cups
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 bacon rashers chopped (optional)
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
32 oz good chicken stock ( 4 cups)
1/2 cup cream
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
Black pepper to taste
2 tbsp cognac
A dash of all purpose seasoning
Water to regulate the thickness of the soup
1/2 ficelle or baguette, cubed
1 tsp minced garlic, or a dash of garlic powder.
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
In a deep casserole, heat oil and butter at medium-high heat.
Add the chopped bacon if using. Sauté until just browning on the edges.
Add the chopped leeks and minced garlic. Stir together well and cook for about 5 minutes or until leeks begin to wilt.
Add the cubed potatoes and incorporate well with the leeks and bacon. Add the seasoning salt, thyme, sugar and fresh black pepper. Allow to cook together for about 10 minutes. The leeks will begin to caramelize gently and to break down slightly. Stir frequently so that the ingredients do not stick or burn.
Add the chicken stock & thyme. Allow to come to a simmer. Taste for salt and add if necessary. This is important as different brands of chicken stock has varying levels of sodium.
Allow to come to a boil and then lower heat to medium low.
Cook soup for about 15 minutes. Test the potatoes to ensure that they are cooked completely.
Remove soup from the stovetop to blend.
With an immersion blender, carefully blend the vegetables and stock to a creamy consistency. Be very careful not to get burned. Ensure that your pot has at least 3 inches of depth free before using the blender. This is very important as the hot liquids can splatter.
Blending the vegetables with an immersion blender.
Return the pot to the stovetop to complete the process.
The consistency of the soup should be slightly thick. If it appears more like a porridge consistency, add some water to thin it out slightly.
Pour the heavy cream and the cognac. Stir together well and heat through for an additional 3-5 minutes.
To make croutons
In a large fry pan, melt butter and add olive oil in medium heat.
Sauté the minced garlic quickly and add the cubed bread. Be very careful not to burn the garlic, or the flavor of your croutons will be affected.
Keep turning the bread to brown slightly and to absorb the flavor of the garlic and butter. Do not leave the bread unattended as it can burn quickly.
Remove from heat once the croutons are golden and place in a small bowl.
Remember that the fry pan still keeps the heat for a few minutes, even after being turned off. For this reason, it is best to remove the croutons once they have attained the perfect color.
Serve leek and potato soup with a drizzle of truffle oil, if liked and a few croutons. Snip a few pieces of fresh chives on the soup before serving.
Delicious anytime, particularly good in cool weather.
The Haitian mountains of Belot in Kenscoffe.
Note: This recipe can be made vegetarian by using a good vegetable stock instead of a chicken stock and skipping the bacon bits. Obviously, the taste is superior with the ingredient list as stated. However, I am sure that a vegetarian leek and potato soup is just as hearty and delicious.
If you are new to using leeks, only use the white section and a portion of the light green section (perhaps, just about 4-6” in length). Do not use the darker green long leafy sections as they are hard in contrast. Wash carefully to remove all sediment and dirt which could be trapped in the layers.
Do not substitute green onions for leeks in this recipe as they will not give the same results.