Irish vegetable soup starts with potatoes and leeks. It’s one of our favorite St. Paddy’s day recipes and we like to share it every year at this time.
Surely you recall the boeuf bourguignon celebrated in Julie and Julia. Seems like half the “Julie half” of the movie showcased her overwrought struggle to prepare without burning the classic French beef stew. In the real world of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child offers a far more useful lesson to the confident home cook, especially one who lives in a warm climate.
Her very first recipe is Potage Parmentier (Potato Leek Soup). Learn the basics of this ultra-simple soup and you’ll be handily feeding your family nutritious, affordable, delicious variations in every season. And you’ll feel good about bringing back that high school French you were sure would be so useful when traveling through Europe after college and, of course, later in life.
As Julia says, potato leek soup is “simplicity itself.” Just sautéed leeks and potatoes simmered in salted water. No fancy ingredients, no complex methods. Potato leek is a remarkably full flavored, fully satisfying soup, so much so that you will be truly puzzled by how it developed such a depth of taste. Much of the credit must go to the magical leeks, the onion’s gentler cousin. Regular onions are an acceptable substitute, but once you prepare this soup with the white portion of three good sized leeks, everyday onions will be sent to their room. An added bonus is that these regular grocery ingredients provide the base for countless variations with plenty of opportunity for improvisation.
Our Cheater Chef Irish Vegetable Soup builds on the Parmentier basics for a great St. Patrick’s Day dish or dreary late winter/early spring warming supper. Here we’ve added carrots and celery and started with chicken broth instead of water. For St. Patrick’s you might add pieces of cooked corned beef or smoked sausage. Also consider adding sliced cabbage, kale, escarole, watercress, or spinach shortly before serving. Toasted rye or traditional Irish soda bread is a must of sopping. Of course, this meal benefits from a hearty seasonal dark brew or two.
Irish Vegetable Soup
4 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks, light green and white part thinly sliced
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 large or 6 small baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
About 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, if using water or unsalted broth 3 quarts water or chicken broth
Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Saute the leeks in the butter over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and water or broth. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, if needed (add additional, to taste). Simmer about 45 minutes to one hour, partially covered. Check the salt level before serving and adjust if necessary. Partially break up the potatoes with a potato masher for a chunky soup or make it smooth with an immersion blender. Makes about 6 servings. If using greens, add them to the pot after the soup has simmered and cook until the greens are softened. Coarse greens like kale or cabbage will take longer than spinach or watercress.