‘While it might take the bluest of moods to make you sit down to a plate of plain mashed potatoes for dinner, a bowl of potato soup tells a more cheerful story.’
Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50
The cheerful story is this: from the most simple and inexpensive ingredients a soup can be made that is delicious, good for you, and very good for your state of mind. Lois gives a basic potato soup recipe which can then be added to with roasted garlic, winter greens (cavolo nero, silverbeet), leeks or smoked fish. I chose roasted garlic and silverbeet which I will give the method for below. With enough leftover for a second meal, I turned the remainders into a satisfying dinner for two by flaking over some smoked fish.
This recipe will make enough for three people; Lois gives a helpful guideline of one medium-sized potato per serving of soup and increase the other ingredients correspondingly.
Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet (Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50-51)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 medium-sized floury potatoes (I used Agria)
salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 small bayleaf
water or chicken stock
milk or cream
soft green herbs such as parsley, dill, chervil, chives (optional)
The optional extras:
A bunch of silverbeet
2 bulbs garlic
Roasting the garlic:
Put the garlic on to roast before you start the soup. Heat oven to 190°C. Prepare the garlic by slicing off the tip of the bulb to expose the ends of the cloves within. Place inside a piece of tinfoil, sprinkle with a little olive oil and water and seal up the package. Place onto a little oven tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cloves are very tender and your kitchen is filled with the sweet smell of caramelised garlic. Leave the bulbs to cool and then squeeze out the insides of the cloves and set aside.
The soup base:
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook very gently until the onion has softened. While the onions cook, peel the potatoes and slice into thin slices (cut in half, place cut side down and then slice). Add the potato to the pan and cook until they start to stick to the bottom but have not started to colour. Add enough water or stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
While the soup is simmering, prepare the silverbeet. Wash the leaves to remove any dirt or wildlife and strip the green leaves away from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and put into a bowl, then finely slice the leaves and keep them separate from the stalks. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the silverbeet stalks; bring back to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the silverbeet leaves and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Finishing the soup:
Remove the bayleaf from the pot and add the roasted garlic. Purée the soup using a handheld stick blender or food processor bowl; do this in short bursts as quickly as possible as this will help to prevent a gluey texture caused by over-processing. Add the silverbeet and chopped green herb (if using) to the smooth soup base and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.