By Steve Peters
The leaves are down and the skies are grey. A good snowfall is inevitable. There are many reasons not to like this time of year, but for me, there’s one very good one reason to be a fan – the food. Alright, so maybe food weighs heavily in my opinion of many things in life, but the warmth and heartiness of the dishes I cook in winter is pure comfort; it’s how I take control of the often times depressing environment in which I’m surrounded. Because one can only look at mounds of dirty snow for so long without going crazy.
Soup is one of the easiest, most reliable foods I cook in my kitchen during these days. At the base of these soups are the hearty foods of our local farms – root vegetables, winter squashes, brassicas, apples, greens like kale, and fresh meats such as chicken and pork. At times, I’ll put to use vegetables like corn and peas that I bought in bulk or grew in my garden this past summer and froze. And a jar of tomatoes that I canned, the one truly invaluable food I find worth canning, is always at hand.
Here are three soups I’ll be making all winter long. I love to make a big pot and enjoy it for several days after.
Leek and Potato Soup
This is such a simple, yet classic, soup that everyone should know how to make. Why? Because it’s just equal parts cleaned and chopped leeks and potatoes. While broth will add flavor, you can just cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender and it’s still delicious. In other words, you don’t really even need this recipe.
- 3 cups sliced leeks (the white and tender greens)
- 3 cups peeled and roughly chopped baking potatoes
- 6 cups water or broth
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt (optional)
- 1 small bunch of thyme (optional)
- A splash of cream or milk (optional)
In a stockpot combine the leeks, potatoes, salt, water/broth, and thyme, if using. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Although optional, at this point I like to puree the soup with a hand blender and, also optional, pour in a quick splash of cream or milk. Before serving, you could top with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt, some thyme or chives would be nice too.
Butternut Squash, Apple and Sage Soup
If you ask me, this soup is the perfect pairing of fall flavors. Save yourself some time by roasting the squash a few days in advance. Instead of butternut, try pumpkin, acorn, delicata, hubbard or your favorite variety.
- 4 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium)
- 8-10 sage leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- splash of maple syrup
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- splash of heavy cream (optional)
- 1 large apple, finely diced
Preheat oven to 425 F. Halve each butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle with sage, butter maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast 45 minutes to an hour, or until the squash is tender. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and then scoop out flesh.
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pot. Add in the shallot and sauté over medium-low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the squash, chicken stock, apple cider, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes.
Puree with an immersion blender. Return to pot, taste and adjust seasonings. At the last minute, stir in cream and serve garnished with diced apple, fried sage leaves, or a spoonful of yogurt, swirled.
Curried Root Vegetables Soup
Poor celeriac. It’s not pretty and honestly is a bit of a pain to peel. I suggest just using a knife. But it is certainly worth the effort and the highlight of this soup. Depending on the curry powder you use, the result can be sweet and mild or a bit spicy, however you prefer.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1-2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Heat the butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and then add the onion. Sauté until it begins to soften, then add the garlic and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes. Add the curry powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Cook until the spices are fragrant, about a minute more.
Add the celery root, carrots, potatoes, water and stock and bring to a boil, then simmer until everything is tender, about 20 minutes.
After cooling slightly, use an immersion blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to the pot and stir in milk. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and serve topped with parsley.
Steve Peters is the Communications Manager and Food Education Specialist at RAFFL. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.