"To feel safe and warm on a cold, wet night, all you really need is soup." Laurie Colwin
Soup (and sweater) weather has finally arrived here in Saskatoon. My boots have been smashing through fallen leaves - that is a most lovely sound, is it not? Inside, the tea pot is constantly cozied; an extra blanket thrown on the bed. While September leaves me maudlin, October re-kindles a little fire of optimism in the spirit, (or maybe it's just my post-Thanksgiving Tiramisu high). I'd forgotten how good it feels to be all swaddled and cozy; to slip inside a warm house, with a runny nose and cold hands aching to be wrapped around a warm mug of tea.
With the garden quietly put to bed, all that is left out there now are some droopy-headed sunflowers, left behind for the birds to munch on. The last of the carrots, beets and Yukon Golds were dug up a few days ago, weeds creeping happily into their place. Outdoor chores are mostly done (I'm not fond of ladders or heights, so the eaves trough clean-out is one task I put off and off and with any luck snow will come then I really have no excuse honest but to do it next year oops!), focus turns to inside projects, like organizing cupboards, dusting behind the TV and reacquainting myself with this contraption called an iron. My habits in the kitchen once again tend to produce good, comfort, soul-warming food - my favourite kind.
You may find it hard to believe that I haven't made a soup in my little green kitchen since this beauty...but it's true! Summer here was so fantastically hot, the last thing I wanted to make or eat was soup. All of that has changed now, of course, with the dipping temperatures and dark nights. I wanted to use the last of the Yukon Golds in something triumphant - a real showstopper. Paired with smokey bacon, fragrant leeks, and lotsa Gouda this soup is one of my go-to bowls of comfort. Omit the bacon and sub in vegetable stock if going the veggie route, and feel free to use whatever cheese you have. Cumin Spiced Gouda was lingering in my fridge so that's what I used, but a nice old white cheddar, or Gruyere would be amazing too. Simple and easily made under 30 minutes, it's great for weeknights when all I really want to do is curl up with a blanket and a cat and watch my new favourite show - "Downton Abbey". Have you seen it? I'm a sucker for Upstairs/Downstairs type shows about behind the scenes servants in crazy rich households, with all of the drama and secret passages and stellar costumes. If you've seen and loved "Gosford Park" - you'll love Downton Abbey. Plus, it's full of cute British boys.
The first night I made this soup, I dunked hot, heavily buttered toast in it, and it was glorious. Then I remembered this super, I mean, SUPER delicious beer bread recipe my friend Ashley gave me a few years ago. It's a quick bread, and yes the beer imparts a wonderful earthiness to it, but the best part is the melted butter poured over the batter before it gets baked. Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine this buttery golden crust, completely surrounding a warm, rosemary scented loaf of goodness. I know. It is just as good as it sounds. The first time I made it I was in awe of how something was so few ingredients could be so darn good, then I had to restrain myself from eating the entire thing in one day. Perfect for dunking in stick-to-your-ribs stews, too - this is one bread where you'll fight over who gets to eat the end pieces. Seriously.
A word of warning though: I used a smaller loaf pan than usual (where is my good aluminum one I've had for years?!!!) and the butter runneth over, giving a whole new meaning to the term brown butter. The smoke alarm went off (good to know it works!) and all of the windows and doors had to be opened. There was a
Soup and bread go hand in hand and these two are the perfect pair. It's not a low carb feast, but what the hell. It's a meal so good it might just get me up on that ladder, sooner, rather than later. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm going to tuck into another piece of rosemary beer bread, snuggle in a little deeper and watch another episode of "Downton Abbey." The cocooning has begun.
Cheesy Bacon, Potato and Leek Soup
4 pieces of bacon, chopped small
3 leeks, white part only, washed thoroughly, then sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 medium potatoes, Yukon Golds, or other white
5 cups of chicken stock, or veggie stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese, such as old cheddar or Gouda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove crisp bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the fat in the pot. (If not using bacon, melt 2tbsp of butter in pot and proceed with recipe). Add the leeks, and cook until a little bit soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook a minute longer. Add the potatoes and stock, scraping up most of the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the Dijon mustard and cayenne. You want the potatoes to be covered with about an inch or so of broth. I used about 4 cups, but you may need a bit more. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Put back on low heat, stir in the cheese until melted. Add crisp bacon back into pot and stir in milk and cream. Adjust seasonings with more salt, pepper, cheese and if too thick, thin out with more milk or stock. Garnish with again, more cheese, chives and diced bacon. Serves 4-6.
Rosemary Beer Bread
This is my friend Ashley's recipe - she wrote it out for me on a small recipe card before I left Edmonton. Besides being a wonderful cook, she has two blogs: one where she knits and crochets like nobody's business, and another where she gives insights into her vegetarian world. You have her to thank for this recipe! And hey Ash! Has your oven ever started on fire too?!
3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dry
1 12oz. can of beer (I opened it about 30 minutes before baking)
1/3 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together in large bowl. Add beer and stir well to incorporate. Batter is quite thick. Pour/press into greased LARGE loaf pan, or an 8x8 inch baking dish. Pour melted butter over batter. Run a knife around edges so the butter runs down sides. Place in the middle of your oven and bake for about 50 minutes if using loaf pan, and about 30 minutes if using 8 inch square. If butter runs over, place aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and place this on the rack beneath your bread. Put out any fires with baking soda and a large lid. :) Let bread cool for about 15 minutes, then run knife around edges and remove from pan. Serve warm.