Cambrian: Opinion

Welsh heritage inspires potato leek soup

Sweet sautéed leeks simmered in potato soup, garnished with a knob of butter and leek rounds, sprinkled with paprika — a rainy-night treat.
Sweet sautéed leeks simmered in potato soup, garnished with a knob of butter and leek rounds, sprinkled with paprika — a rainy-night treat. Special to The Cambrian

Dydd Gwyl

Dewi Sant


Happy St. David’s Day, be it a little early for the actual date, March 1. Everyone gets to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, so I will share a little of my other heritage with you.

Did you know that Cambria is the Latin name the Romans gave the small country they overcame in the British Isles — but not without some major resistance?

David, the Welsh king, led his men to victory in a decisive battle, when both sides were engaged in a skirmish fraught with indecision because all the men wore similar clothing.

In order to identify each other, David ordered his Welshmen to wear a leek in their helmets, and so won the battle but eventually lost the war.

The leek is now the national plant of Wales, second to the ubiquitous daffodil, which grows wild about the country as it does in Ireland.

When it was my turn to cook dinner for the Native Daughters of the Golden West, I chose to prepare this large quantity, which served all 25 attendees, with plenty to take home and freeze in zipper bags for later.


Potato Leek Soup

10 pounds of russets

3 large leeks

2 sticks of butter

Goodly amount of salt

White pepper

3 49-oz. cans low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth, available at Cookie Crock

1 qt. cream, whole milk, or cashew milk, optional

Cut the root tip and tough green leaves off the leeks, then slice them lengthwise to best scrub out any sand and/or mud. Chop. (Reserve the tough leaves to simmer whole for added flavor; they are easy to fish out before serving.)

If you do not want to peel all those potatoes, scrub well and cut into large chunks. Start cooking in a large pot of cold water, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 25 minutes. Carefully drain almost all of the water, leaving some as thickener. Slip off the potato skins as much as you can and mash.

Meanwhile, sauté the leeks in butter. (The smaller they are, the more they will dissolve. I personally prefer large to-the-bite pieces.)

Add leeks to the pot with as much broth as you think you will need. Include the extra green leaves, if you wish. Simmer and season to taste, then remove the tough leaves.

To make a creamy soup, add cream or milk, and blend with an immersion blender. (Catherine Ryan Hyde recommended using cashew milk to make any vegetarian soup creamy, prepared without broth.) Serve hot; garnish each bowl with a knob of butter and sprinkle with paprika. Or leave out the butter and serve chilled.

I have an Irish recipe for smaller portions, using 10 medium potatoes cooked in 8 cups of water and prepared leeks and parsley, with but 6 tablespoons cream or milk stirred in at serving time.

About the time I was cooking I coincidentally received the following recipe from my friend in Texas, Sue Stoner. She recommended this from her friend, Carol Strong, of Salado, Texas.

Potato-Cheese Chowder

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup corn

1 cup chopped onion

4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 1/2 cup cold water

1 tbsp. butter

Chunk of Velveeta cheese or 1/2 jar Cheez Whiz

Place all except cheese in large heavy pan. Heat on high for only about 15 minutes, cooking the vegetables until tender-crisp. Stir in cheese and heat through to melt.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428, or email her at cambrian@thetribune