From the Kitchen – When Simple is Best

by Joan Saunders | photos by Kathryn Alvarez Photography –

Some of my favourite meals are the simplest. In January, after the excesses of the holiday season, it’s lovely to hunker down at home and enjoy some hearty, heart-warming meals.

This is where soup comes in. What I love about a good pot of soup is that it’s very satisfying to make. You can freeze it, you can have it for lunch over a few days, it’s easily portable if you’re heading to someone else’s place and it’s so delicious. Add some homemade biscuits and you’ve got yourself a wintertime winner of a meal.

Potato Leek Soup is a French tradition; it’s creamy, quick and comforting. I’ve gotten into using leeks in recipes over the past few years as I have a friend who loves them. The only difficult part of dealing with leeks is making sure you clean them thoroughly, as grit can get into the layers.

To clean leeks, first rinse them thoroughly to get rid of any visible dirt. Cut the roots off the leeks and slice them lengthwise, then chop up the parts of the leek you want to use. Place the chopped leeks in a bowl and fill it with cold water. Use your hands to move the leeks about and get rid of any dirt that may be clinging to them. Finally, scoop the leeks out of the water with a sieve or slotted spoon as they’re now ready to use.

As an accompaniment to this appealing soup, the biscuit recipe is fairly effortless and so good. Buttermilk is the secret, as it adds a little tangy-sweet flavour to the dough. It’s my mom’s recipe; I have no idea where she got it, but it’s one that I’ve been making forever and it is always a hit.

So on a rainy day this month, take some time to stir up a big pot of soup and throw some biscuits into the oven. As you ladle this French classic into bowls, garnish it with some chives, then cut open a warm biscuit and watch the butter melt into it. You’ll be so glad that you’ve created this moment, this simple yet gloriously satisfying meal.

Classic Potato Leek Soup
4 tbsp butter
5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (about 4 large leeks)
3 cloves garlic, chopped small
2 pounds yellow or russet potatoes, peeled, chopped into about 1/2 inch chunks
7 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup table cream
chives, finely chopped, for garnish

Melt butter over low-medium heat in large soup pot. Add leeks, garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft and wilted. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure leeks don’t brown; adjust heat as needed.

Add potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper; bring to boil. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer about 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Fish out thyme sprigs, bay leaves.

Purée soup with immersion blender until smooth. (Or use blender to purée. Fill blender about halfway with soup, add blender’s lid, cover lid with dishcloth, purée, pour back into pot.) Add cream; bring to gentle simmer. Taste, adjust seasonings with salt, pepper. (I generally like more pepper.) If soup seems a bit thin, simmer to thicken. If too thick, add more stock to thin out. Garnish with chopped chives.

The soup can be frozen; do this before cream is added. Once defrosted, reheat on stovetop until hot, then add cream; bring to simmer before serving.

Kathleen’s Cheese Biscuits
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 425°. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Cut butter into about 1-inch chunks, put on top of flour mix. Using pastry blender, cut butter into mix until butter is size of small peas. With fork, stir in grated cheese. Then stir in buttermilk with fork.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter. Bring dough together and knead gently about 10-12 times. Pat out dough into ¾-inch thick round. Using 2 ½ inch floured circular cutter, cut out rounds. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes.

You can also turn these biscuits into more of a sweet option. Add 2 tbsp sugar to flour mixture and, instead of cheese, add ½ cup currants. They’re perfect with butter and jam.

Adapted from:

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