You can’t go through winter without making leek and potato soup at least once. I seem to make it at least fortnightly and I often vary the ingredients.
This version takes a flavour boost with the addition of that herb-flavoured German version of prosciutto known as speck. The soup works better if you don’t puree it. Robust and packed with flavour, it is definitely main course fare. On a cold day, it’s an absolute winner.
Chop two leeks finely, lengthwise twice first, and then across the grain, so you end up with finely chopped quadrants.
Sweat the leeks with a scored garlic clove in half olive oil, half butter - about a tablespoon of each - in a heavy pot. In another pan, fry a couple of tablespoons of finely cubed speck. Use good bacon if you can’t find speck.
Chop four large potatoes into fairly small cubes. Roughly crack ten black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Chop some parsley or dill. You’ll want a good tablespoonful.
Now tumble the fried speck, the potato cubes, the cracked pepper and the herbs over the leek, which has now been cooking very gently for five minutes. Place the lid on the pot. Let it all sweat together on very low heat, to cross-pollinate the flavours and aromas, for another ten minutes. The heat must be low. Move the ingredients gently around with a wooden spoon every little while.
After ten minutes, cover the ingredients with chicken stock and bring to a brief boil, then simmer until the potato starts to break down. Longer is better. Maybe an hour.
Ladle the chunky pieces and the fragrant liquid into large oven-proof serving bowls. Top with grated cheese - a nice nutty Swiss or maybe Jarlsberg, whatever you fancy. Place under griller for a minute or two until cheese starts to bubble.
Serve with buttered rye bread and a nice hoppy beer that is not too cold.