Sunday, 30 September 2012

downton suppers: curried leek and chickpea soup

curried leek and chickpea soup
i had planned tartines of fried figs tossed in pomegranate molasses and thick slices of grilled halloumi for tonight’s downton supper. however o who does not usually comment on my choice of cooking firmly disagreed. for him downton suppers must always be bowl food. so here i was on sunday afternoon faced with little more than several leeks and some sad looking chillies in my vegetable compartment and no inclination to wander as i was feeling under the weather. i usually use leeks to make risotto or pilaf. however, i did not fancy standing over the hob for a risotto and did not enough herbs to make a fragrant pilaf. it was the half eaten remains of a pot of creme fraiche that came to my rescue as it inspired this soup. i love soups like spinach or tomatoes with chickpeas with a stir of creme fraiche. but we never ended up using it as the leeks were silky enough on their own. 

i have a weakness for curried soups. it is an easy way of adding warmth without having to toast and grind individual spices. curry powder has a decidedly english character as it always reminds me of english versions of sub-continental curries. adding it to soup satisfies my cravings for curry without the labour of slow browning, bhuno-fying and coaxing the oil to separate from the masala. yes, it’s the easy way but it doesn’t hurt to take it sometimes. 

this kind of a soup is particularly good when you need a bowl of comfort. it has substantial character which comes from a combination of pureed and whole textures. o and i like our soups to be fairly thick, like the consistency of a soft set custard so that it rests easily on the spoon. you could add a little left over boiled rice and ladle the soup over it for those with heartier (read male) appetite. toasted sourdough would be welcome too. 

{curried leek and chickpea soup} 

six hundred grams leeks 
a very generous pour of olive oil 
a can of chickpeas, drained 
one tablespoon curry powder 
three cups of vegetable stock 
salt to taste 
chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish 

i use the whole leek (white and green parts). slice the leeks into medium rings and wash thoroughly. i usually let them sit in a pan of cold water for a couple of minutes and rub them gently before rinsing. this helps release any dirt inside the rings. pat dry the leeks. 

heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. you basically need enough to coat the leeks well. sweat the leeks on a gentle heat until they are pale and soft. now remove half of the leeks from the pan with a slotted soup and cook slightly before blitzing to a smooth puree. you can use some of the vegetable stock to keep the blades moving incase they get stuck. 

return the pureed leeks to the pan, add the drained chickpeas, curry powder and vegetable stock. stir and simmer to desired thickness. season with salt before serving. ladle into large bowls and garnish with some chopped flat leaf parsley to serve.

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