Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup

A bit of a disapointing soup to kick off this blog. But, it's what I made this week. I bought the book that this recipe came from a week or so ago. A $10 book from Big W. It has some recipes that have appeared in other books, but enough new recipes for me to buy it. It doesn't take much for me to buy a new soup book of course. I have managed to buy one soup book three times now....

Last week I made the Caramelized Onion and Parsnip Soup (p153), and this week the Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup. I don't eat fennel all that often, and had never cooked with it at home, so I'm not sure why I was so keen to try this soup, but it was definitely calling me. I had to make it.

Fennel can be a bit tricky to use when you haven't used it before. Half way through chopping 4 bulbs of fennel I became vaguely anxious about which bits I should be using. Google came to my aid of course. There are lots of interesting fennel pages, seems I'm not alone in my minor fennel anxiety. I looked at a couple of pages and decided due to my fennel inexperience to not use the green stalks or fronds. I was also planning to have my 8 year old eat this creation, he's pretty good with soup, but had never been exposed to fennel and I thought it best to go easy. I do of course bribe him with nice bread and Danish butter every week, but you never know.

I was somewhat worried that this was going to be inedible when it was partially cooked. This soup has a very odd method, where the leek and fennel are briefly cooked (only 2-3 minutes according to the recipe) and the stock is simmered separately with some aromatics. I was worried about this method, but true to form I only read the recipe after I'd started in on making it, and already had bought up big to make a double batch. I had leeks and fennel bulbs everywhere. No turning back.

Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup
Serves 6

30g (1oz) butter
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
2 rosemary sprigs
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
80g (1/3 cup) sour cream
25g (1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
1tblsp oil
1 leek, extra, cut in half lengthways, and cut into 4 cm lengths
grated parmesan cheese, extra, to garnish
sour cream, extra to garnish

1 Heat the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the sliced fennel and leek. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 Put the hot stock, rosemary sprigs and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, then remove the rosemary sprigs and add the fennel and leek mixture to the pan.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend in batches until smooth. Return to the pan and stir in the sour cream and parmesan. Reheat over medium heat until hot. Season to taste and keep warm.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the extra leek for 2-3 minutes, or until soft but not browned.

5. Top with the fried leek and garnish with the extra parmesan and sour cream. Serve immediately.

My variations.
I am incapable of making a recipe without modifying it. I presume that most people are.
I of course used freshly grated nutmeg, as the preground stuff shouldn't be used.
Because I was making a double mix I had to put the leek and fennel into my large soup pot. It took much longer than 2-3 minutes to cook. I then had to tip the stock into the vegetable mixture.
I usually use an immersion blender for my soups, but had to fire the real blender up for this one. I think because the vegetables weren't really well cooked as they normally would be in a soup, the immersion blender just wasn't up to the job, and the texture wasn't pleasing at all.
I didn't use extra sour cream as garnish. Just the cooked leek, extra parmesan, and a sprinkling of nutmeg as suggested by the photo in the book, but not included in the recipe.
My son adores cheese, he loved sprinkling on parmesan (his current favourite cheese) and needed extra parmesan half way through his bowl.

My version

How a food stylist and professional photographer made it look in the book