Unless you are exceptionally organised, there is little to harvest from the allotment in January. Unfortunately, the cabbages and purple sprouting broccoli I did plant in hope of eating throughout the 'hungry gap' got eaten by the slugs. Last year was a very good year for slugs, and as the weather was so mild until the last week or so, they were still on the rampage in January - I spotted one only the other week eating my newly sprouted rhubarb leaves. Anyway, one thing that most people do have to harvest at this time of year is leeks, and a great thing to make with leeks is leek soup. I make two different leek soups 'winter leek soup' and 'summer leek soup'. As we are currently in the depths of winter I am making winter leek soup today.
When I first began making leek soup I used a recipe from Delia's Smith's Vegetarian Collection, however I have refined it over the years by adding extra ingredients - in the case of my winter version Cavolo nero, curly kale, and peas. The recipe below will make 6 large bowls of delicious soup.
- Trim and wash 6-8 leeks (depending on their size.) Cut the leeks into half lengthways, then chop finely and wash thoroughly. Cutting the leeks into half first will enable you to give them a really good wash.
- Dice 1 large onion.
- Wash and chop 4 green curly kale leaves and 4 Cavolo nero leaves (you can use kale only if you don't grow Cavolo nero).
- Wash and dice 1 large potato or 2-3 small potatoes - I prefer to leave the skin on as they are a rich source of nutrients.
- Gently melt 1 oz (25 g) butter in a large pan and add all the ingredients, stirring to ensure they are all coated with butter.
- Add one large cup of frozen peas to the pan and stir again.
- Season with plenty of salt and black pepper, put the lid on, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and leave the ingredients to 'sweat' for 15 minutes or so.
- Add 300 ml semi-skimmed milk, and 1 litre of vegetable stock to the pan. Add a little water if needed (there should be enough liquid to nearly cover all the vegetables). Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend and serve.
- If you are a vegan simply swap the butter for 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, swap the milk for unsweetened soy milk.
It is often recommended to serve leek soup with a swirl of cream or crème fraîche, however I don't do that. Sometimes I add a little grated mature cheddar cheese, although it is delicious without!