This recipe marks the beginning of a new series of posts for which I am inviting people to submit their own (what I call) ‘heirloom recipes’ for publication on this blog.
An heirloom recipe is a dish that has been passed down to you by someone you love, most probably during your childhood, but not always, that you remember strongly. It will perhaps be a dish that you still cook on a semi-regular basis as a means to remind you of the person who cooked it for you and the time you were first introduced to it. Your heirloom recipes may well be the dishes you consider to be comfort foods, and they may also be, I expect, the most child-friendly foods in your repertoire, but not necessarily. Part of what excites me about starting this project, is not knowing what threads are going to emerge, if any.
This is a particularly special project for me because since I started this blog I have realised that the key thing that draws me to the topic of food is its capacity to connect us with our past, our culture and those close to us. Food to me is not just about nutrition, sustenance or flavour, even. I believe that the dishes we come back to throughout our lives also represent an important part of what makes us who we are.
My ultimate ‘heirloom recipe’ has to be my mum’s leek and potato soup. I’ve even had arguments with people over how to make leek and potato soup before because it’s not any old version that matters to me, it’s this one, and so much so I avoid eating it in any other form. I ate this soup regularly throughout my childhood but I remember it being especially important when I had a cold. When I was off school ill, Mum and I would hole up in the living room, talking, watching telly and enjoying a slow, snotty build up to lunch – and sometimes dinner as well – comprising giant bowls of thick leek and potato soup seasoned heavily with black pepper.
My little girl has been ill with a cold today so, instinctively, the first thing I did this morning was put a batch of leek and potato on to be ready in time for lunch. I then looked on proudly as she guzzled down three bowls of the stuff, much like I used to.
As with most things, the nostalgia I attach to this dish is all in the little details. Mum’s leek and potato has to be left to simmer really gently for at least an hour and a half. The skins must be left on the potatoes; it must be mashed by hand, not with a blender; and it must contain plenty of black pepper so that there is a possibility of retrieving a bit of hot peppercorn from in-between your teeth after eating it. Break any of these rules and the soup will simply not evoke in me any of the same feelings of warmth, familiarity and love, and I doubt whether it will help cure a cold either!
Mum’s leek and potato soup
Butter, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium leeks, sliced thinly (include plenty of the green bits)
3-4 medium potatoes, cubed, skins left on
600ml fresh chicken stock, preferably from a roast
Salt and black pepper
Milk, to taste (about 100ml)
Melt the butter in a heavy casserole and fry the chopped onion and leek gently until well and truly softened, stirring regularly for at least 10 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and continue cooking gently for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh chicken stock and bring to a light boil. Leave on a very low heat for an hour and a half to two hours, until really thick. Season well with salt and pepper then mash the soup with a potato masher. Pour in a little milk to loosen it; the soup should be thick enough to coat the mouth and very pale green in colour, not too creamy. (As a young child I had extra milk to make the soup cool enough to eat but now I am grown up I prefer just a splosh.)
If you are a food professional, a blogger, or simply a keen home cook and reader of this site, I would be delighted to receive your submissions for this column. In exchange for your time I can offer publicity in the form of a brief intro and links to your business as part of the post and a related ‘heads up’ on my Facebook page, Instagram & Twitter. As this is a personal project I hope you appreciate I cannot offer payment. All submissions will be read and responded to but I reserve the right whether to publish or not and contributions will be edited by me as necessary.
To take part please email me your recipe along with a paragraph or two about who and where it came from and why it is important to you in no more than 250 words. Please also include a brief introduction to who you are and your connection to the food industry (if relevant). I will be especially delighted if you can also provide an old photograph (jpg, 72dpi, 1000 pixels wide) of yourself or the friend/family member who gave you the dish.
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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