The time is ripe for another hand-me-down nugget of culinary nourishment here and I can hardly contain my joy at sharing it. I can always rely on my cherished fried Tehya Sky to send me the best recipes from her Californian zen den across the pond. Just when I am hungrily wondering what to cook next she floats into my inbox and provides me with exactly what is needed. First it was life-changing almond and cacao nib cookies, now it’s probably the best plant-based soup I have ever tried – that coming from a die hard smoked haddock chowder lover for whom normal soup and a bread roll barely touch the sides. Especially at 32 weeks pregnant.
With her characteristic good taste, Tehya hunted out the original recipe from Julie West’s wonderful blog, The Simple Veganista (yes, I love the name! and her IG feed is beautiful too). The base is familiar to us all – leek and potatoes – and yet the additions are so imaginative and give such a wonderful depth of flavour, it’s a far cry from the achingly bland versions plaguing most shop shelves. Add a warming sprinkle of fresh tarragon, aromatic garam masala and dried basil (it sounds overly eclectic but it just gets better with every spice and herb) and you have a properly grounding winter soup that is plant-based yet not lacking in any way for sustenance, comfort or flavour. You could even add some shredded organic chicken for extra protein and you’d just be creating another layer of nourishing goodness.
Judging by my last recipe and this, it seems Ben and I are on a garlic-and-almond roll. I would say it’s a third trimester craving but I know my love of these two flavours and textures well enough not to blame it on something as transient as hormones. Because when they’re browned together with a little salt, the sky is truly the limit: you can sprinkle it on almost anything savoury and it will become richer, more textured, more full with flavour, further from the ordinary and closer to something truly divine. Trust me; we have tried.
And because it needs no further intro, here is the soup.
900g potatoes, chopped into small chunks
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil or odourless coconut oil
2 small leeks, chopped
1250 ml vegetable stock
1 tsp tarragon, chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried basil
a pinch of saffron
sea salt and pepper
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
In a large sturdy pot, heat 1 tbsp of oil over a medium heat; add the garlic and almonds and a pinch of salt and gently brown, stirring all the time until they are golden (about three to four minutes). Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool. In the same pot, add the leeks the remaining oil, stirring until the leeks are soft.
Then add the stock, potatoes, garam masala, saffron, tarragon and basil, stirring throughly, and bring to the boil. Cover and leave to simmer for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Meanwhile, in a food processor or small grinder, whizz the almonds and garlic to a fine crumble. Set aside two tablespoons of the mixture in a small bowl and add the rest to the soup.
Once it is cooked and the potatoes are soft but not falling apart, remove the soup from the heat and mash a few of the chunks using a hand-held or electric masher. You might want it all smooth but I prefer it with a few chunks; play around and see what you like best.
Add the vinegar and parsley and stir well, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, sprinkled with the rest of the garlicky almonds and a little chopped parsley.