That wasn’t really fair what I said about leeks last week, was it? Because they really are nice. And they do very well in the Scottish climate. Leeks enjoy the cold. I hate the cold but I do like leeks.
I’ll tell you a story about leeks. A man who works in the Shanghai market in Genova once asked me where I was from, because he could tell by my accent that I wasn’t Italian. I told him I was Dutch, and he told me that he’d always wanted to go to the Netherlands. “For a funny reason, actually”, he said. Most Italians I meet have always wanted to go to the Netherlands to legally smoke grass, but that’s hardly a weird reason so that couldn’t be it for once. My curiosity was aroused.
“It’s for the leeks, you know. In the Netherlands you have these huge great leeks, and the tasty white part is massive compared to the green, inedible part. They’re enormous! I’ve always wanted to see a leek that big in real life!“
You’re right, that is actually quite a weird reason. On the other hand, I can’t blame you. It’s true. Northern leeks are quite big and southern ones are puny, and pricey. I once bought leeks in Italy and paid a fortune, because they just don’t seem to do so well in the heat. Or maybe the Italians just prefer to use all of their soil to grow tomatoes, which is fair enough.
Right, so a variation on the oldfashioned leek and tattie soup. With cumin! This should be a main course for about 4 people, if you serve bread with it.
– 4 big potatoes (or a larger number of smaller ones)
– 3 medium leeks
– 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
– some stock cubes (I prefer garden herbs but you can use any type you want)
– one little clove of garlic if you fancy
Peel the potatoes and cut most of them in cubes, save maybe a quarter of one of them, cut this chunk into super tiny pieces.
Boil about a litre and a half of water. Heat some butter in a pan, carefully fry the cumin seeds and the garlic if you decide to use it. (If you do, the best thing to do is to cut it in half, remove the little plant inside, then just chuck it in like that and to remove it when you serve the soup.)
After a couple of minutes, chuck in the potato cubes (but not the tiny little pieces!) and leave them in with the cumin for a minute, then add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1,5 cm, the tiny pieces of potato and a couple of stock cubes. (For those wondering what the finely chopped potato is about: the bits release lots and lots of starch, so that you do bind the soup a little bit, without having to mash it all up with a blender.)
Slice the leek into rings and wash them properly. Now here’s something to decide for yourself: if you want the leek to go soft and be all squishy, add the rings soon after you start boiling the potatoes, say after 10 minutes, and then leave the soup to simmer for another 15 – 20 minutes. If you prefer your leek a bit crunchier, do it the other way around: leave the potato to boil for about 20 minutes, then add the leek. Add more water and another stock cube if you need to.
Serve with some good bread and preferably a beer as well.