Comfort food at it’s warming best
It’s been a wet, grey, cold day. The sort of day that makes throwing back the covers and getting out of bed difficult. A day for staying indoors and reading or watching an old movie. For knitting and drinking steaming cups of tea. For baking or playing board games. But there have been things to do and places to be, so the boots got dragged from the back of the wardrobe and I have been out and about. Caught in that fine drizzle that doesn’t quite get you wet but chills you. One more trip for school pick up and then it will be slippers on and time for dinner.
One last chance to get in a winter warmer before the summer really hits. Now let’s be clear. Potato Soup has long been a family favourite and pretty much a favourite of other boys who have sat at our table on a winter’s evening. Why? Because it’s not fancy, it’s not complicated. It’s just thick and warming and like a hug from the inside out. Like all my recipes, it has evolved over time, adding in mustard and cream. I remember first cooking this as a student when anything that was filling and cheap was great. The fact that this tasted so good was a bonus.
Take your potatoes. Now usually I just grab what looks about 5 large ones, but I actually weighed out and a kilo seems to be about right. Peel and cut into chunks and cover with water. Add a good couple of pinches of salt and boil for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and easily pierced with a skewer. Please make sure they are well cooked or the mashing will be more work! Retain 1 cup of the water that the potatoes were cooked in.
Slowly add in the milk as you mash the potatoes. You want them to be smooth (everyone hates lumps) I find a potato masher works well, although a potato ricer would be ideal. Now add the cream (this is comfort, not diet food) and stir together. Add mustard keeping in mind that you can vary the amount based on your taste buds – more if you love it, less or none if mustard is not your thing.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and bacon finely. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a slurp of olive oil. When pan is hot, in goes the bacon and onion. Now, there once was a time when I fried the bacon first until crisp and browned and then the onion. Now – who has the time? It works just as well, but don’t have the heat too high. You will be looking for everything to slowly brown and catch and get delicious. When you think its done, spoon onto a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Take that cup of potato water that you cleverly kept and pour it into the hot pan. Watch those tasty crunchy bits come loose to add all that extra flavour to your soup.
Pour the bacon and onion mix plus the water into the soup. Stir to combine. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. If your soup is too thick, add that extra bit of milk until it reaches the consistency that you like (I prefer thicker but it is up to you)
Reheat the soup gently over low heat, spoon into bowls and serve with some sour dough or just good old toast.
- 1 kg potatoes, I used Golden Delight
- 2 small or 1 large brown onion, chopped finely
- 5 rashers of bacon, diced finely
- 1 - 1½ cups milk
- 1 cup cream
- 2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- oil, for frying
- peel and roughly dice the potatoes. Cove with cold water, adding a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, cover, and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through and very soft.
- Remove from heat and drain, retaining 1 cup of the potato water.
- Mash potatoes, slowly adding 1 cup of milk. Mash until very smooth
- Add cream, mustard and nutmeg and stir to combine.
- Meanwhile, heat frypan and oil. Add bacon and onion, cooking over a medium heat until onion is golden and bacon is crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
- Add reserved potato water to pan, scraping with a spoon to release the flavours from the base. Add mixture to the soup.
- Stir and add salt and pepper to taste.
- If the soup is too thick, add remaining milk.
- Reheat gently and serve with crusty bread