Saved by Soup
by Aoife Cox from The Daily Spud
I have always liked the depth of winter thickness of a good potato soup. When all is cold without, it soothes and warms from within.
Soups of all kinds are, of course, supreme in their ability to comfort. That they can, within reason, be composed from whatever is available and dished out with ease has meant that soup kitchens have long been associated with feeding the poor. In fact, in Irish famine times “souper” was the accusatory call directed at those poor unfortunates who were shunned for accepting the generosity of certain Protestant soup kitchens, where, in an attempt to save both body and soul, the badly needed soup came with a rather less than welcome serving of religious instruction.
There is in this soup, I hope, nothing quite so divisive. It’s the simple, earthy result of wondering what would happen if I gathered into my pot a bunch of the usual soup suspects – potatoes, onion, garlic and celery – and added beer. A few other additions, like mustard, soy sauce and some grated cheese perk it up, but, beyond that, there’s nothing too fancy going on. I also promise, hand on heart, that it won’t try to save you from anything other than a rumbling tum.
I would, in addition, suggest that you be prepared for the fact that this is, as soups go, a rather unprepossessing brown colour. It lacks the eye-catching orange of carrot soup or the ripe redness of soupified tomatoes. Before you dismiss it, however, remember that brown things – from beef stews to chocolate – can taste good too, and that, most surely, is their saving grace.
(Serves: around 6)
vegetable oil for frying
2 large red onions (approx. 400g), finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium-sized potatoes (approx. 600g), washed, skins left on, and finely diced
4 large sticks of celery (approx. 200g), finely diced
700ml light veg stock
500ml red ale
3 tblsp soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dijon or other mustard
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sherry vinegar or to taste (or use sherry or lemon juice)
approx. 50g mature cheddar cheese, grated (or use another flavoursome hard cheese, like Gruyère or Glebe Brethan)
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. When hot add vegetable oil to coat the pan. Add the onions and fry for around 10 minutes or until softened and starting to brown a little at the edges.
- Add the garlic, stir and fry for around a minute, then add the potatoes and celery and fry for another 5 minutes more.
- Add the stock, ale, soy sauce and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for around 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf and blend the mixture using a handheld or other blender, leaving some chunks if you like.
- Add mustard and black pepper to taste and more soy sauce if you think it needs it. Finish with a splash of sherry vinegar – only a small amount is needed to brighten the taste so gently does it – or you can try sherry or lemon juice for different finishing effects.
The soup will be fairly thick, so thin as desired with boiling water. To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top. Some cheese toasties alongside would make it even better. You could also, to mix a metaphor, beef the soup up by adding some cooked ham or bacon.