Potage de Poireaux et Cresson

This hearty leek, potato and cress soup, flavoured with bacon, makes a warming lunch served with hot buttered rolls and cheese. Potage de Poireaux et Cresson (poh-tahj d’ pwah-roh eh creh-sawn) is also delicious served with hot croutons.4 streaky bacon slices, diced

1 tablespoon butter

1 lb. trimmed leeks, washed and thinly sliced

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper :’, teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 pints home-made chicken stock

10 fl. oz. milk

1 bunch watercress, washed, shaken dry and coarsely chopped

8 tablespoons chopped mustard and cress

1 bay leaf

5 fl. oz. sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (optional)

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon over moderate heat for 5 minutes or until it is crisp and has rendered most of its fat, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent the bacon from sticking. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and drain on kitchen paper towels. Crumble the bacon and keep warm.

Add the butter to the pan and melt it with the bacon fat. When the foam sub-sides, add the leeks and potatoes. Fry the vegetables, stirring constantly, for 6 to 8 minutes or until they are golden.

Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle over the flour, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Stir well with a wooden spoon to coat the vegetables with the flour and seasonings. Gradually pour in the chicken stock, stirring constantly and being careful to avoid lumps. Stir in the milk, cress and bay leaf.

Return the pan to the heat and bring the soup to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Pour the soup through a fine wire strainer held over a large mixing bowl. Using the back of a wooden spoon, rub the vegetables through the strainer until only a dry pulp is left. Discard the pulp in the strainer.

Alternatively, blend the soup in an electric blender until the vegetables form a fine puree.

Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the sour cream. Set the pan over moderately low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the soup has heated through.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the soup into a large, warmed tureen or individual soup bowls. Sprinkle over the chopped chives, if you are using them, and the fried bacon. Serve immediately.