As the amount of daylight dwindles and farmers' markets close for the winter months, I turn to uncomplicated soups and stews made with cold-season produce like potatoes and leeks. A good ol' hot pot of something hearty and fragrant is what keeps me from hibernating until it's no longer necessary to bundle up in a thick jacket, toque, scarf and mittens just to go start your car.
Today I'm going to share a recipe for a healthy potato leek soup, labeled "healthy" because a lot of creamy soups out there call for oodles of butter, cream and/or milk, none of which I use here. Instead, I saute the leeks in a little olive oil, and blend half of the cooked soup while leaving the remainder chunky, kind of like a chowder.
What really gives this soup a rich and creamy texture, though, is the addition of cashews blended with water. The nutty taste goes completely undetected and adds body and depth without being unhealthful. I assure you, though, this velvety winter soup tastes more like an indulgence instead of "health food".
You may be wondering why I keep referring to winter, even though its official start date is more than a month away. Here in Saskatchewan, we like to get a head start on it, as demonstrated by this photo I took on Sunday:
If there exists a better reason to make a warm bowl of soup, I'm completely unaware of what it may be.
Healthy Potato Leek Soup
Makes 4 large servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 large white potatoes, chopped (about 2 pounds)
5 cups vegetable broth (I used 2 bouillon cubes)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1/3 cup cashews
2/3 cup water
Salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste
Chopped vegan bacon, for serving (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Cook the leeks in the oil until they've softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the potatoes, broth and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes depending on the size of the potato pieces. Remove from the heat.
2. Transfer half of the cooked soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Make sure to leave the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape and hot liquid doesn't explode everywhere. Transfer the blended mixture back to the soup pot and stir to combine.
3. Now blend the cashews with the 2/3 cup water - this works best in a small blender like the Magic Bullet, but you can just as easily use the same blender you blended the soup in. Blend until smooth, and add the cashew mixture to the soup and stir to combine. Generously sprinkle with fresh pepper, and a little bit of salt if necessary. Serve in a soup bowl with a sprinkle of vegan bacon if you'd like. Enjoy!
This potato leek soup pairs great with some toasted bread, or even a sandwich if you have a big appetite. Each serving of soup falls just shy of 300 calories, so it would be wise to pair it with another food to make it meal-sized.
With satisfying soups like this in my repertoire, I might not even complain about the bitter cold or endless drifts of snow sceduled for the next five months. There's something just so darn heartwarming about sipping some soup, cozy in a sweater, and gazing out at the frozen world outside.
Whether or not I'll have the same sentiments at the end of March is a different story. :)
...Logan concurs. Except for maybe the whole heartwarming part.