November 16, 2010

First Snow and Potato Soup

It was a day made for potato soup. The weather had been getting colder the past few days, there had been a couple of light frosts, and the previous day there was a touch of sleet. Forecasters predicted a hard freeze for that night, and snow as well. Even so, it was a bit of a shock to wake up to snow on the Fifth of November. But first, an update.

We had visitors today. The Mountain Patrol--a Great Pyrenees named Snowball, who is the actual patroller, and his mutt buddies Ralph and Birdie--visit regularly, but the flock of peafowl showing up to meet the new neighbors was a surprise.

The winter garden is coming along nicely. I put a blanket on the garden because of the predicted freeze, but when it warms up again next week I get to thin the arugula and Rouge d'Hiver. There may be some other thinning and replanting to be done as well, because the kale looks pretty good where it's come up. I also found seeds for another winter lettuce, Mervielle de Quatre Saisons. Apparently it's been a staple of the winter garden in France for centuries. I'll let you know what happens.

Several days ago we were driving past a small nursery and saw that they were selling end-of-season trees. I got an apple (Fuji), a pear (Moonglow), a peach (Elberta), and two cherries (Bing and Montmorency). Then I spent about three days moving tires around pretending they were trees so I could lay out a Forest Garden.

The actual shape of the garden is a Mandala, at least in the picture in my mind. I'm planning to put in two more trees, a white peach and a red pear. I'll probably also put in a pond around that stone lantern where all the tires are. The Forest Garden will be almost entirely perennials or self-seeders. Theoretically, the garden I've laid out should provide all the fruits and vegetables needed for a family of four. It shouldn't take more than four or five years to find out. I'll keep you posted.

Now, about that soup. Start by caramelizing an onion in a bit of olive oil. A sweet onion would be nice, but whatever you have will work fine.

Next, add a sliced leek. Use the white and light green parts only. The dark green parts can be used to make stock or compost, your choice.

Next, add potatoes, preferably unpeeled, and stock. You can use vegetable stock and you'll have an excellent vegan soup. I had chicken stock handy and used that. If I had had a spare parsnip or two, that would have been an excellent addition.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. If you want, you can add some ham or bacon. I used a bit of nice country ham, which needs to be sautéed a bit before it goes into the pot.

Simmer until done, at least an hour, maybe two or three if you're rather busy. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't lose too much liquid. Adjust the seasoning, maybe add some white pepper, and serve.

Simple, wasn't it? Coming next, I'll continue the soupmaking as butternut squash meets Thai curry.


  1. Potato soup is my ultimate comfort food - thanks for the recipe!

  2. Great post and update on your forest garden. Its pretty much summertime year-round in Puerto Rico but soup, especially those winter soups, still go down well.

  3. Many winter soups do quite well as chilled soups when it's just too warm for hot soup.

  4. I don't cook with sweet onions, I don't get it. In salads, ok, esp. red, but sweet = bland. Would you use sweet garlic? Maybe it's matter of taste. Maybe like bell peppers vs. chili peppers? I don't know. Sweet onions just never did anything for me. Like, what's the point? Also, what's wrong with dark green part of leeks? Thanks for tips about winter garden & compact orchard & potato soup. Love them taters!

  5. Sweet onions have more sugar, so they caramelize easier. But personal preferences are more important, so if you don't like sweet onions, use what you prefer. As for the dark green part of the leek, it is barely digestible because it has too much fiber, but it adds excellent flavor to stocks.