Irish Potato Soup
Irish potato soup is a typical country dish, and a lovely warmer-upper of a harsh day. As with many traditional Irish recipes, there’s debate over the ingredients of ‘real’ Irish potato soup. We went for typical Irish ingredients that would’ve gone into the pot in days gone by. You can’t get closer to the heart of traditional Irish food than the humble Leek.
But even the strictest bean an tí (‘lady of the house’) of old wouldn’t have begrudged you popping in a few florets of cauliflower or a rib of celery. Like all types of Irish soup, this potato recipe was the ideal device for the lady of the house busy about the place. Minor prepping; into the pot; leave to simmer; administer to hungry mouths.
Irish potato soup is true comfort food
It has to be the perfect comfort food, too. Because isn’t life just that little bit harder when it’s nippy outside? This soup is a secret recipe for compassion and refusing to become cold even if it’s a cold world. The ideal belly warmer. Back in the day, hardy food like this was also as close as the Irish farmer came to having health insurance. Freezing rain outside? Twelve hours of outdoor labor ahead of you? No need to fret, boyo, a bellyful of this stuff has got you covered!
To get started, Thinly Slice the Leek and Roughly Chop Onion. This rendition of old ‘Irish mother makes soup’ used Two Large Leeks – the white part and about the lower third of the green part. One fragrant Large Onion played the archetypal supporting role of eldest daughter.
Use a Heavy Bottomed Pot, if you have one. This Irish potato recipe would’ve of course traditionally have been cooked in those sturdy black lumps of iron you see in the movies. Giant, hollowed out cannonballs slung over flame. They probably weren’t all that even at the bottom, but the concept was sound: thick iron minimizing hot spots and so less chance of burning your dinner. Thick metal also absorbs and distributes heat more evenly.
Irish potatoes for Irish soup
While you’re still in chopping mode, Peel and Quarter the Potatoes. We wanted shot of some lovely small Irish potatoes we had about the place, so we used them – the equivalent of Three Large Potatoes (2 lbs, peeled). If you’re into super smooth soups, Dice them small. But several scholars of the ancient Celtic annals and a plethora of modern-day big data show that true Irish prefer ’em on the chunky side.
Butter is of course the traditional Irish pot lubricant. But since this recipe is so close to being a vegan and vegetarian dish we thought Why not go the whole herbivore hog? Our pot took a splash of Olive Oil warmed very briefly over low heat. If you’re using butter, simply melt it before throwing in your aromatics.
Once the leek and onion are in the pot, Stir and Cook on Low Heat. Cover the Pot and Cook for 15 Minutes – not forgetting to Stir Every 2-3 Minutes. The idea is to Sweat the ingredients. You may have noticed that our aromatic pals are a pretty crunchy lot, so treating them to a mini sweat lodge like this helps break them down. Like sautéing, sweating draws out the moisture and flavor, and so is a good preliminary for the next stage of cooking.
The eponymous star of the show is up next up, especially eponymous in this case as we are of course using Irish potatoes to make its soup namesake. Add the little critters to your pot, along with the Stock. Keeping it vegan, we used Vegetable Stock but Chicken Stock also gives this soup a nice, neutral-flavored (galline) backbone. We used Two Stock Cubes and a little over Three and a Quarter Cups Water, but again that’s to produce a thick end product. If you like you’re soups a bit thinner, up the amount of water (to a maximum of 5 cups, considering the other ingredient amounts) and think about adding another cube of stock.
A Sprig Of Fresh Thyme was typically added and lots of Salt and Pepper. We’ve preferred White Pepper as it blends better visually. Bay Leaves often found their way in, too, and we’ve popped in a couple two. (Don’t forget to remove the herbs once the whole cooking soup shebang is over!)
Bring the pot to Boil and Reduce to Low Heat. It should be left to Simmer for about 20-30 Minutes, until the spuds are fork tender. Once it’s done, Remove from Heat and Blend with Immersion Blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can pop the soup into your regular blender and blend in batches, then reheat the lot. If you ain’t got a regular blender, try a fork. But if you ain’t got a fork we’re out of hope for you as regards enjoying a nice bowl of Irish potato and leek soup any time soon.
Serve straightaway or leave on the stove to simmer further, Irish lady of the house style. That way all your hungry ones can dip in as they please. If you want to impress your old Irish credentials even harder, follow this Irish potato soup with the even more old-fashioned liver and onions.
We’ve fried up some bacon bits for the garnish, but skipping this and using vegetable stock will keep this recipe vegan and vegetarian.
Ingredients for Irish Potato Soup
- 2 large Leeks (white part)
- 2 lbs Potatoes (about 3 large potatoes)
- 1 Large Onion (10 oz / 300 g)
- 3 1/4 cups Vegetable [Chicken] Broth
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil [1 oz butter]
- [1 rib Celery]
- [2 cups Cauliflower Florets]
- 2 sprigs (fresh) Thyme
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Salt and Pepper to taste
[ ] – optional extra / alternative
- Finely Slice the Leeks. Quarter or Dice the Potatoes into chunks (at least 1 inch thick). Roughly chop the Onion [and the Celery].
- Add a Splash of Olive Oil [Knob of Butter] to a large pot over Low Heat, Stir in the Leek, Onion [and Celery]. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, Stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking.
- . Stir in your Broth [and the Cauliflower Florets], Add the Potatoes, Bay Leaves, Sprigs of Thyme and Salt and Pepper to taste. Bring to a Boil. Once boiling, Reduce to a Simmer. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the potato is fork-tender.
- Remove from heat and carefully Take Out the bay leaves and thyme.
- Using an Immersion Blender, Purée the soup in the pot. Serve with Garnish of your choice. Chives, Bacon Bits, Shredded Cheese all work great.