Does anyone else feel spring in the air? I feel it in my calendar more than anywhere else. In the last fortnight, I have felt a noticeable shift in busyness around me. A changing of gears and a revving up of activity. As we cross over that transition between quiet, hibernating winter into an active, alive spring, it's perhaps more important than ever to have a couple of speedy suppers in your back pocket.
There's still a chill in the air so having a pot of soup on the hob is a great way to keep your belly happy as your brain gets busy. Soup is not a taxing culinary feat but it can reap rewards in the form of comfort and flavour. This soup takes less than 40 minutes to put together and, if you leave the cream out until just before serving, it will keep in the fridge happily for a couple of days.
I was feeling a little patriotic when I was putting together this recipe, in preparation for St Patrick's Day next week. The vibrant colour of this soup might raise an eyebrow of those not into their greens (particularly kids and picky eaters) but its flavour makes eating it very easy indeed.
It's a gateway to greens. I suppose it's helped on in part by the liberal application of cream but even without the cream, it's much tastier than those who aren't into greens might imagine. Leeks are such a beautiful, hearty ingredient that I think we take for granted a little bit.
Like lots of delicious discoveries, the brown bread croutons are something I whipped up out of necessity. I had wanted to make some croutons for this soup but only had a few slices of almost-stale brown soda bread in my pantry. They worked extremely well as croutons, particularly with this patriotically green soup, a reminder that a bit of old bread can go a long way.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Butter, for frying
2 large leeks
3 cloves of garlic
2 thyme sprigs
800ml of vegetable stock
Small bunch of fresh parsley
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
2 slices of brown soda bread
100ml single cream
1. Start by heating a knob of butter over a medium heat in a large, deep saucepan. Roughly chop your leeks and give them a really good wash. Peel and roughly chop the potato. Gently fry the leeks and potato for 10 minutes, until the leeks have started to soften. 2. Peel the garlic cloves. Roughly chop them and add to the pot. Add the thyme sprigs and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Let the soup simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. 3. Meanwhile, make your brown bread croutons. Chop the brown bread slices into crouton-sized chunks. Heat a little butter or oil in a frying pan. Fry the bread until toasted and golden brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 4. Removes the parsley leaves from their stalks and roughly chop the leaves. You want a good handful of parsley. For the last five minutes of simmering the soup, add the parsley leaves and the baby spinach to the pot. Stir it well so that the greens wilt into the soup.
5. Add almost all of the cream into the soup, keeping a little back for serving. Use a hand-held blender to blitz the soup until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, seasoning to taste.
6. Serve the soup with a little swirl of leftover cream, some fresh thyme and a handful of brown bread croutons on top.
This week's storecupboard essential:
Almost stale bread: It doesn't sound like the most appetising pantry item but stale bread is an ally to hold on to rather than discard. Whether it's for breadcrumbs, bread pudding or croutons, hang on to the ends of loaves. You can freeze nearly-stale bread in a ziplock bag and defrost it when you need a blitz of breadcrumbs.