Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bacon, Potato & Leek Soup with Rosemary Beer Bread

"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 small fire small incident inside the oven, easily contained with a large stainless pot lid.  All the while I was thinking, maybe I should take the bread out?  Nah, it was all self contained, and the smoke dissipated soon after.  Besides, I know how good this bread is and I was bound and determined to see it through.  The lesson from this cautionary tale?  Use the largest loaf pan you can muster, or maybe a 8x8 square pan.  I've reduced the amount of melted butter, and maybe after you pour it over the batter, take your knife and run it around the edges of the pan just so the butter doesn't stay on top.  There.  I do hope you aren't scared off by my small fire kitchen excitement, the bread is well worth it.  For a fun side note - I don't have a self-cleaning oven and frankly have not peeked inside since I took the bread out.  Don't think my baking soda paste is going to cut it.  Any suggestions?

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. 


  1. Haha, no i have never had a fire, er i mean incident involving this bread!!!
    we love to experiment with lots of different brews that Aaron makes in this- different beers give different flavours!

  2. Both the soup and bread are AMAZING!!!

  3. The soup and bread look fantastic! I love potato soups and I'm obsessed with Downton Abbey! :)

  4. These sounds like great recipes, thank you. We did have soup in the crock pot today ... it is definitely soup time of the year.

  5. Ash, glad you are fire-free! Stacy, thank you! Jess, isn't it the best show?! NN, it is definitely soup weather here too. Crock pots are magic, aren't they?

  6. This looks so tasty, can't wait to try it. Today was the first time I've ever come across your blog and it made my day! Since May I've been living in Germany with my new husband but I am from Saskatoon, so when I read your opening line that soup and sweater weather has arrived in Saskatoon...well it put a huge smile on my face. Looking forward to following your blog and trying your recipes!

  7. If the recipes turn out half as good as your pictures look then my husband will be one happy fellow!!

  8. Beautiful soup! I'm a little jealous of your fall weather. It's getting more tolerable by the day but it's still pretty hot here. However, I'm a fan of soup in any season- our hot summers in Austin make chilled soups especially delightful. And that bread looks well worth the fire, er, I mean small incident :-) Also, love, love, love Downton Abbey. Can't wait for the new season!

  9. The soup looks and sounds just fantastic. My husband would love it too. Can't wait to try it out!

  10. Bonnie! So happy the blog made your day! Very cool that you are from Saskatoon too. Enjoy your stay in Germany! B&B - thank you! Shelley, happy to hear your weather is cooling off a bit. We have a few more beautiful weeks of fall before Winter starts to poke its way in, so I'm making the most of it! Lauren - thank you!

  11. Renee, this potato leek soup looks delicious, especially with bacon and perfect paired with the beer bread.
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :-)

  12. Just found your blog - fabulous!
    Terrific photography - I can almost smell it
    Look forward to reading more!

  13. Made the bread and the soup last night for the family - a BIG hit with my 2 year old and my 40 year old! Thanks Renee. The days I just can't think of what to make for dinner, I find myself looking here and there is always something great to make.

  14. I think i need to bake that bread this weekend!

  15. Thanks Juliana! Sue - I'm happy you found the blog too. Thank you for your kind words! Candus, you are a sweetheart! Carrie - do make the bread, you will love it!

  16. This is the 2nd (and 3rd!?) recipe I've tried from your blog and I am loving everything so far. It's very satisfying to have them turn out with such wonderful smells and flavours, not to mention I now have a few containers of soup frozen and waiting for us to enjoy on another day. I somehow persuaded my husband (very much a non-cook) to mix up the bread while I worked on the soup and he was pretty proud of himself when the result came, golden, fragrant and crusty from the oven. Thanks for your blog Renee, you write so well and your photos are terrific and did I mention I enjoy the recipes too?

  17. Thank you so much Lori! You just kind of made my day! So happy you enjoyed the soup, and I love that your husband baked the bread. Anything with beer is an excellent persuasion tool!

  18. Hi Renee, Your Bacon, Potato and Leek Soup with Rosemary Beer Bread recipe has been selected to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Please share the following link with your friends and fans. To play, go here: Congrats again!! :)

  19. i printed out the beer bread recipe some time ago and just now made it / tasty and wonderful what rosemary can do / sage would be good to / shoot / how about parsley sage rosemary and thyme / Scarborough Fair bread

    i would also like to see Ashley's knit and crochet site if you can provide a link

    thanks for lovely recipes

  20. Here's a link to Ashley's site - it's pretty great. Hope you find some inspiration!

    I'm happy the bread turned out for you - it's one of my favourites!

  21. made your soup and bread this evening, and both recipies are great, thanks for sharing!

  22. I have been this bread for COUNTLESS times and i still cannot believe how ridiculous simple and devastatingly delicious it is. EVERYONE swoons over this, i thank you and your friend SO SO MUCH. It's incredible-ness is out of this world.


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