November 29, 2010

Potato and Leek Soup with Parsley-Garlic Chutney

Being unemployed means having plenty of spare time to cook and then take dorky cooking pictures of whatever it is that I’m cooking, which then accompanies these intros.

Which brings me to a new outlook: no excuses.

1. Small changes can make big differences. Sounds lame but, por ejemplo, I cook beans from scratch all the time. I let them soak overnight and I cook them in the morning. The difference between being employed and being unemployed is the method in which the beans cook. As a student, or when I was working, I would either cook soaked beans in a crockpot, or soak beans during the day and nuke them in the pressure cooker once I got home (pressure cooking beans takes all of 20 minutes). Now, I can soak them overnight and cook them in the morning, or soak them all day, and cook them along with dinner. Beans are important foods to a vegetarian - they provide protein, and they aren’t processed. I still buy canned beans for those oh crap moments, but I have found my new routine to have less of those moments. These small changes can have excellent benefits. Having cooked beans in the fridge during the week makes throwing last minute meals a reality (as opposed to my new found addiction to the Dr. Oetker’s mushroom pizza).  

2. Cook meals at home and try to do it everyday. Living in a country with limited ethnic food options has improved upon my cooking skills. If I want Indian, I cook it at home (I am not interested in spending my week’s grocery bill on one measly thali).  Craving Mexican? Cook it at home. Thai? At home. Vietnamese? At home.  

3. Plan your weekly meals. I like cooking and eating so I plan meals. This does a number of things, it allows me to plan to use whatever is already in the fridge and pantry. I can cook more of one thing (increase the pot of beans) to be used in multiple dishes, and I can prep vegetables all at once.  It helps me maximize my food dollars. I buy whatever foods I want, but I make sure to use them in dishes that I will cook that week or the next.

4. Get someone in your household to start baking bread everyday.

Today, I had leftover leeks from a week ago (who knew they stored so well), parsley, and some potatoes that were starting to grow. Ew. So, I decided to procrastinate from my CV writing (let’s see how I can translate this “no excuses” mentality into all aspects of my life?), and instead make potato and leek soup. This is good, tasty, hearty, filling, and healthy. 

potato and leek soup

Leeks are like overgrown green onions, except they are milder and sweeter.  You can cut up the leeks into 4” sections and fan the layers through water. The leek layers tend to be filled with dirt, so if still gritty, place trimmed chopped leeks into a large bowl of water.

Peeled potatoes

Leeks ready to be chopped 

leeks and carrots
Leeks and carrots

garlic, lemon, parsley
These will make a great chutney to top the soup

potato and leek soup
Potato and leek soup

Potato and Leek Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter
3-4 cups chopped leeks, from 1-2 large leeks Use up to 2” of the green parts on the leeks
1 medium carrot, chopped into 1/4” dice
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp oregano, dried
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp dill, dried
4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth plus 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soymilk, you could also use 1/2 cup of either cream or milk

  1. In a large soup stockpot (one that can hold 4 quarts) heat up olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in leeks and saute 5 minutes.
  2. Add in bay leaf and carrots and continue to cook 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add in oregano, onion flakes, and dill. Stir to combine.
  4. Add in potatoes and vegetable broth plus water.
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover slightly and let simmer 20 minutes.
  6. After 20 minutes, the potatoes should be cooked through.  Take a potato masher and lightly mash the potatoes until you have a chunky soup. You could also puree half of the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. The potato masher method is the most convenient requiring far less cleaning than using the blender or immersion blender.
  7. Stir in soymilk, cream if using, or milk, and continue to heat 10 minutes until thickened.
  8. Garnish with parsley or serve along with parlsey-garlic chutney (see recipe below).

Parsley-garlic chutney
This is more like a tapenade than a chutney; it is delicious and brightens up the soup.

3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese (choose a regular, shreddable kind, it can be basic, nothing fancy see note below.)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup parsley, finely minced to yield 1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Spoon a teaspoon over the soup before serving.
Note: there is a cheese shop, called The Cottage, in town that I really enjoy purchasing cheeses from. The owner and I were chatting and he was telling me how he cannot tell the difference between the regular parmesan and the fancier parmesan reggiano, except for the price between the two. He said they both are salty enough, but the parmesan reggiano is drier and aged longer. This works for me.


  1. At some point I do want to learn how to make bread at home. I have a recipe from a close friend who's very good at it and I'm going to do it one day. I'm sure that once I get the hang of it I'll be tempted to make my own bread all the time.

    My sister makes a great six bean soup that is really nice.


  2. Mmm, bean soup! We have been using this bread recipe from The Italian Dish blog:
    It is a simple, no knead bread, that stays in the fridge. Hope Masi is feeling better, heard she had the flu. I talk to mom and I am updated on everyone! Where are you these days? TX?

  3. I'm in TX but might be traveling in a bit. Not sure yet.

    Mum's ok, she's got a persistent cough and drinks a turmeric drink to combat it. Otherwise she's ok.

    I'll check out that no knead bread!


  4. OH NILAM!!!!! I wish I could come eat at your house everyday!!!!!!! Then afterward we could stay up all night and be crazy lunatics, just like old times. All your recipes look AMAZING and you're quite the photographer too. I love and miss you. Hope all is well.

  5. Christie, I wish the same thing. Come to Belgium, I promise that I'll feed you, and we can be lunatics just like old times. I love and miss you too!