Monday, July 18, 2011

No-milk Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Recipe by S. Folkart from Community Gardens of Santa Cruz

One of the first recipes I learned to make when I moved to Santa Cruz in the late 1970s was potato leek soup. I had never seen, much less eaten, a leek before I came to California, but I had read plenty about them in various cookbooks. Although I’ve already published my recipe for Potato Leek Soup, I recently found this recipe in a 1979 local cookbook, The Vegetable Gardener’s Cookbook, published by Community Gardens of Santa Cruz, to which I belonged at the time. Although I did tweak a couple of things, credit goes to Community Gardens member S. Folkart for the original no-milk-or-cream recipe.

Potatoes and Broth in Bowl
Potatoes Ready to Puree: a Few Leeks are Okay
Note that the recipe does contain butter, so is not fully non-dairy. I reduced the quantity, but used it for the flavor. If you use a very rich veggie broth such as Imagine Organic or Pacific Natural Foods instead of the light, half-strength broth in the recipe (see photo below), you might opt to use olive oil instead, or even eliminate the fat altogether. S. Folkart suggests sautéing both leeks and potatoes in butter before adding the liquid. This is somewhat tricky in a deep saucepan, so you could choose to just sauté the leeks a little. The second time I made this, I forgot all about the sautéing step until the potatoes, leeks, and broth were already cooking. So I just plopped in a pat of butter, and it tasted fine. Simpler is better, IMHO.

Immersion Blender Pureeing Potatoes
Immersion Blender in Action
My husband surprised me with the immersion blender I’d been wanting, for my birthday. This tool eliminates the chore of dumping hot soup into a regular blender then back into the pot. It also seems easier to control the amount of pureeing to suit your culinary mood. Although I usually puree Potato Leek Soup till it is completely smooth, I experimented with leaving it slightly lumpy, with delicious results. I love S. Folkart’s idea of separating the leeks from the potatoes and broth, and leaving them un-pureed. That eliminates chance of ill color effects when using red potatoes with green leeks. This separation process is somewhat tedious. It seems easiest to use a large wooden spoon to fish the potatoes out of the broth and a fork to grab them from the spoon and shake off most of the clinging leeks. Of course, you could choose to just puree the whole thing, leeks and all. I for one don’t mind green soup.

Potato Leek Soup
serves 4 - 6

1 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, mashed with the side of a knife
2 medium leeks, white and green, in ½ inch slices, about 2 cups
1 lb. red rose potatoes, cut into ~1 inch chunks
2 cups water
1 veggie boullion cube or broth powder for 1 cup broth
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg (added to original recipe)

Golden: Use Imagine or other (Orange) Carrot-y Broth
Melt butter in saucepan. Add garlic, leeks, and potatoes. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add water and boullion cube or powder. Or, simplify this recipe by adding butter, garlic, leeks, potatoes, water, and boullion cube to saucepan and bringing to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 10 minutes.

Remove potatoes only—and garlic if you find it--put into heatproof bowl. (It’s okay if a few leeks get in there.) Drain liquid from pan into potatoes. Use immersion blender or other blender to puree potatoes and broth to your liking.

Mix pureed potatoes into leeks in pan. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Reheat if necessary and serve with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.


  1. I love cream soups but sometimes need to avoid dairy for a while. My husband's a leek freak. Time to break in my new immersion blender with this recipe! I love your photos, by the way.

  2. Thanks, Kelly (re: photos). Go slowly with the immersion blender, they're surprisingly strong. On my first try the potatoes got a little gluey, so the second time I added all the cooking liquid, not just part of it, and the texture was better. Now I need a new gadget to drain liquid off soup ;-) (in the meantime I'm using a strainer).

  3. OK, So I got so excited about trying your recipe because I had some already steamed red potatoes from the garden waiting to be used, but I had no leeks, but lots of chives and onion from the garden. So instead of leeks I used onion and chives. It was delicious! Although I love using butter, I used a little olive oil and a little grape seed oil instead for fun. I had no problem with the amount of liquid. I added 3 cups water in total to this recipe.

  4. I love the idea of the chives, and especially like the way you garnished with them in the photo you sent. Two long crisscrossed green chives and some purple chive flower petals looks beautiful, and lets folks know what flavor they will be enjoying soon. Thanks for sharing!