Pyrenean Leek & Potato Soup


Serves 4 as a main meal or 2 very hungry people!

It may look like a lot of extra virgin olive oil but this fragrant oil is an integral part of the soup. If it cools the oil may separate, but it will emulsify back into the soup when you reheat and stir it. The oil will also make it much easier to sweat the potatoes and leeks and the potatoes will absorb the complex flavours as they cook.

I suggest buying a good quality 3-5 litre tin of extra virgin olive oil from your local supermarket or delicatessen. If possible try the oil before you buy it to make sure you like the flavour. Although extra virgin olive oil can be very expensive, the good quality oils withstand higher temperatures better before they begin to break-down and their flavour deteriorates.

I like to serve this soup with a drizzle of my favourite single-estate extra virgin olive oil. I use ‘Serraferran’ which is produced a few miles from my home on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees in Ventallo in the Emporda region of Catalunya. In the middle of January it’s fresh green tomato flavour reminds me of summer and helps me through the long winter nights!

At this time of year my local farmer’s market in Cambridge has piles of small tender young leeks, still speckled with moist Fen soil. If you are able to get young leeks, use about 6-8 to replace the larger versions referenced below. The young leeks will need a good soak and a wash.

125ml Spanish Extra Virgin Olive oil

2 Leeks, cut in half from top to bottom and then cut into thin slices (include lots of the green portion)

700g Potatoes (preferably Marfona, Maris Piper or King Edwards), scrubbed and cut into 2cm cubes

Salt & White Pepper

200ml Cava or White Wine

500ml Good Quality Vegetable of Chicken Stock (ideally homemade)

Small bunch of Parsley roughly chopped

Shredded cooked chicken (optional)

Sweat the potatoes and leeks with the olive oil and seasoning in a medium pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent the potatoes and leeks from sticking. Sweat until the potatoes are soft and the leeks are translucent. When the potatoes and leeks are cooked add the Cave or White Wine and the stock. If you are adding some cooked chicken, add it now.

Bring the pan to a simmer. Using a potato masher roughly crush some of the potato. This mountain soup traditionally has some pieces of potato in it, so I suggest crushing only some of the potato.

Check the seasoning and stir in the Parsley.

Serve immediately into hot bowls with a dollop of Allioli on top and warm crusty bread.

This soup improves when kept in the fridge for a day. It also freezes very well too; don’t add the Parlsey until you have re-heated the soup and are ready to serve it.

If you would like to turn this soup into a one-pot supper then simply add some prawns, cooked chicken, or Spanish Judion beans.