It has been too long for me to approach this blog. My work has kept me very busy. I do manage to post on Instagram and Facebook but to sit and write is challenging with my lack of free time these days. However, with St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching I knew this was my opportunity to face the keyboard. Irish recipes are always fun for me to explore. I have three great friends who keep it real for me me: Alan, Brona and Derval. I’m not too far away from a tiny Irish market called The Butcher’s Fancy which helps locate interesting ingredients.
This year I decided to explore a soup. I love making soups when I cater. It’s like a blank canvas that can be painted with flavors and colors. Unfortunately ingredients are marginal at best this time of year. All of the wonderful winter squash that I was so excited about in November and December leaves me a little flat. Potatoes are available pretty much all year long so I don’t necessarily get that bored with them. Plus, who doesn’t like a great potato dish? Roasted, boiled or mashed you can’t beat them with herbs, salt and butter.
Let me get back to my Irish triumvirate. I posed the question to the group last week about putting me on to a soup recipe. Alan immediately shared his favorite take on a Colcannon-inspired soup using green cabbage, leek, potato and parsley. I made it the following day and loved it. It didn’t turn out to be very green, but the flavor was spot on.
More research on Colcannon lead me to several recipes suggesting the addition of kale. Kale is one of those over-used ingredients that I tend to use in moderation. The kale craze a few years ago had everyone clamoring for the grassy tasting green, including me. In the end I decided against using the kale. I rather liked the simple cleanness of this soup. It’s not fussy, just a very straightforward potato-leek flavor with a little complexity from the cabbage. I literally ate if for three days not getting tired of it.
That said, this is a very easy soup to make and lends itself to variation. Alan told me he sometimes makes it with Brussels sprouts, easily substituted for the cabbage; or even a combination of both.
I used Kerrygold butter for this recipe. It’s a favorite of mine. If you can’t find it a really good unsalted butter works perfectly.
Alan’s original recipe called for vegetable stock. Depending on the variety you use some have a more pronounced flavor. My first batch was perfectly fine using the stock, but a subsequent test using water and Better than Bouillon (BTB) was even better. The hint of flavor from the BTB brought out the potato-leek combination without overpowering it.
A quick note on BTB: I am never without this product in my ‘fridge. There are many varieties to choose from, but my go-to is vegetable. It’s the perfect way to add a little something extra to your dish. Easily found in the grocery story and Costco.
I multiplied this recipe by four and ended up with 20 cups of soup. I am taking it with me tomorrow to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck dinner. It will be kept warm in my slow cooker and served with Brona’s Brown Bread. A buttered slice of Irish Soda Bread works perfectly here as well. Recipes for both are at the end of this post.
Serves 4 – 6
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, I like unsalted Kerrygold
2 cups leeks, white and pale green part sliced thinly and rinsed well
2 cups green cabbage, core removed and sliced thinly, see note
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper, see note
1½ teaspoons of Better than Bouillon
3 cups russet potato, peeled and diced small, about 1½ lbs., see note
1 bay leaf
1 cup of Half and Half, plus a little more for an optional garnish
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ cup of lightly packed parsley leaves, plus a bit more for garnish
In a heavy bottom stock pot melt the butter over medium heat and add the leeks and let them soften for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt and pepper and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover and let the cabbage soften for 5 minutes more.
Add 3 cups of water, the pepper, boullion and the potatoes and mix everything making sure the potatoes are submerged. Add the bay leaf, cover and turn the heat up just a little to bring the pot to a low simmer. Cover and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
Remove from heat and uncover and let the pot cool for about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and mix in the cream and nutmeg. Carefully ladle into a high-speed blender with the parsley leaves and puree until smooth, adding a little bit of water if it’s too thick. Taste for seasoning adding additional salt, pepper and a pinch more of nutmeg. Serve warm garnished with a little minced fresh parsley leaves and a drizzle of the light cream.
Look for a small cabbage head. Two cups will be ¼ to ½ of a small head after you remove the core. You can use the remaining for a slaw or simply slice and braise in butter as a side dish.
In Alan’s original recipe he used white pepper. I did the first time around and remembered how much I am not really a fan. If you like white pepper by all means used it. If not go for a fine grind black so that it disappears into the soup.
Russet or Idaho potatoes are the way to go with this recipe. They will break down quickly. The smaller the dice the faster they cook. Just make sure they are a uniform size so they cook at the same rate.
More of my Irish-inspired recipes: