Ahh, winter soup. There is something so rudimental and warming about a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day. It brings to mind a family seated inside with a roaring fire in the hearth, and equally fierce winds outside the windows. Not so much in Sydney, although we have just ‘suffered’ through an East Coast low. Nearly 100mm of rain over the weekend meant that we were cooped up inside, trying not to drive each other insane.
On Sunday we had some relief as we were forced to venture out in the wild weather so that No2 could perform his Eisteddfod piece. No1 had performed his poem the weekend before, and did very well against 14 other competitors. This opportunity is done through the school; and is a great experience for the kids as they learn to stand up in front of an audience and recite a poem by heart. The competition is tough, with many of the other kids having years of experience with speech and drama lessons. Our two have none of that, and are there for the broader experience. Therefore, we have no expectations of glory. We just want them to be resilient and brave in front of a crowd. They both performed exceptionally well, and both were given scores higher than the previous year. The adjudicators were very kind with their comments, encouraging them to keep practising.
No1 had 15 kids in his poetry class the previous weekend, so had to recite his poem in front of 14 other competitors, their teachers and families. On this weekend of wild weather, No2 arrived at the competition room to find that he was in a class of only 8 children. The adjudicator stood at the front of the room to announce the start of the class, and announced four scratchings (presumably due to the weather). No2 was first up, and did his poem well. After all four kids had been through, the winner was obvious. She was incredible. The results were announced and No2 came in third. The other kid from our school came fourth and was given a highly commended. This meant that No2 received a medal and a prize of $25.
At school, the kids have been learning about reconciliation, NAIDOC and Mabo; so it seemed fitting that we donate the prize to the Wall of Hands. This charity, run by the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, teaches children in remote communities to read. It seems absurd that in a first world country like Australia, only 1 in 5 Aboriginal children in remote NT can read to the minimum standard. The donation of No2’s Eisteddfod prize may not be a big amount; but by donating it to this cause, it will give a disadvantaged child the potential for a similar opportunity. We hope that you can also help. Learning to read is a basic human right.
Back to the soup; we arrived home from the poetry recital safe and sound, although slightly damp. Soup is always good on a cold day, and here is a hearty version for you. I’ve used sour cream as a topping, which is a traditional addition from Russia. Russian cuisine includes a lot of different preserved and/or fermented foods such as sour cream.
Leek and Potato soup
- 3 tblsp butter
- 4 large potatoes
- 3 leeks
- 1 onion
- Garlic to taste (I used half a bulb)
- Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock)
- Sour cream
In a large pot, melt the butter then turn the heat down to low. Chop the onion and garlic and add to the butter. Add the leeks, loosely chopped. As they soften chop the potatoes into chunks. I leave the skin on, as I think it’s a waste of nutrients to peel it off. It’s also extra work – and why make extra work for yourself only to lose nutrients.
Most recipes say that you shouldn’t let the leeks get brown. If you do, don’t panic, it adds a slightly nutty flavour, so either way is fine.
Add the chopped potato and cover with chicken stock. The proportion of chicken stock should be so that it just covers all the ingredients in the pot. Turn up the heat until it boils, then simmer until the potato is soft.
While that is cooking, cut up bacon into small pieces, then fry until crispy.
Once the potato is soft, whizz the whole mixture with the blender until smooth. This is why the skins don’t matter, as they will get mulched up by the blender anyway. The texture will depend on how much stock you used. By just covering the potatoes, you will get quick a thick soup. Simply add water until you get the consistency that you like. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve into bowls, top with the crispy bacon and add a swirl of sour cream for a proper hearty Russian winter soup.