tumble out


It had been years since I’d made leek and potato soup. Years. At first I couldn’t remember if it was better with stock or water ? Not that stock was an option yesterday. If I added an onion along with the leek? If I used butter or olive oil? Leek and potato soup over-thinking while the rain battered against the kitchen window again – Rome is awash, the river is high  – and Luca shouted ‘I helpin you I do‘ sounding like Dick van Dyke as Bert.

There was a time growing up when I (we) ate leek and potato soup once a week. It was one of my Mum’s standards along with spaghetti Bolognese (the kind Italians remind you doesn’t exist in Italy) carrot and coriander soup, roast chicken (which meant chicken soup the day after) tatie hash, cottage pie, fish pie, ratatouille and more ratatouille. Mum seemed to chop, simmer and blend it out of almost nothing: 2 potatoes and a few leeks transformed into pan of soup while we watched an episode of Blue Peter. Often she would make it in the afternoon so it would be sitting there, savory, warm and the sort of green Ben couldn’t resist joking about when we got home from school. Sometimes it was tea, so with bread and butter, sometimes supper in which case there would be cheese and salad too, and my dad still in his work shirt, his tie slung over the back of the chair. My dad loves soup, which has much to do with the fact he loves bread and butter, bread and butter being inseparable from soup for Martin Roddy.


I’m not sure why I bothered over-thinking, the soup tumbled out in much the same way words do when certain songs are on the radio. She walked up to me and she asked me to dance, I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said Lola L-o-l-a Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola. The rain tumbled too, so much so that even the leafless trees in Via Galvani seemed soggy. I felt like my mum in about 1979 (but without the smock and headscarf)  shouting ‘Benjamin take that lego out of your nose immediately‘ peeling onions, then trimming leeks –  splitting them so as to wash away the grit – before cooking them slowly in a mix of butter and olive oil (a mix that sums up this English kitchen in Rome,) adding potatoes and water, simmering and then blending. Vegetables drawer to lunch in three episodes of Pimpa.

It hadn’t changed a bit, the soup that is, savory and satisfying, the potatoes providing starchy, soft substance and the leeks – like obedient onions – flavor and something silky (which could be slithery but isn’t). Two utterly dependable, utilitarian ingredients coming together into something delicious, simultaneously comforting and verdant. Satisfying too, how easy it is to make. Not that things always have be easy in the kitchen – far from it, but sometimes easy is called for, especially when it’s raining and everyone is hungry for something warm, good and now (give or take an episode of something.)


Leek and potato soup

Some use stock for leek and potato soup, but if the vegetables are good, it is not necessary, some also add milk or cream. I don’t. I remove a third of the soup before blending the rest into a smooth cream, then returning the third to the pan. This way the texture is more interesting.

serves 4

  • a white onion
  • 3 – 4 leeks (once trimmed approx 500 g)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 25 g butter
  • 2 potatoes (approx 500 g) ideally floury as they need to thicken the soup
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • more olive oil or a little cream to serve

Peel and small dice the onion. Trim the leeks so you just have the white and very pale green part, make two two inch cuts at the top of each leek so you can fan them open and rinse them thoroughly under the cold tap – there will be dirt hiding. Slice the leeks into slim rounds.

In a large soup pan, sauté the onion and leek with a pinch of salt in the oil and butter over a medium-low flame until very soft and floppy – this will take about 10 minutes. Meanwhile peel and chop the potato into inch cubes. Add the potato to the pan, stir so each cube is glistening with oil and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add a litre of water, stir, bring the soup to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender and collapsing. Remove a third of the soup from the pan, blend the other two-thirds with an immersion blender until smooth and then return the third you removed back to the pan. Add salt and black pepper. Serve with a swirl of extra virgin  olive oil or cream.


Oranges, dates and goats cheese. I am also on Instagram now.



Filed under food, leeks, potatoes, Rachel's Diary, recipes, soup, Uncategorized, winter recipes

56 responses to “tumble out

  1. Yet again, I am already contemplating making exactly the same recipe before your email arrives, like a little sign from the universe! Thank you! X

  2. Oh yes. Leek and potato soup may be the best soup there is, and that’s saying something. I tend to mix it up a bit. Sometimes I blend it. Sometimes I don’t. And sometimes, like you, I do a bit of both. Same with cream, or not. Usually not. It’s raining here too. Perhaps I should make a a panful for us this evening. Thanks, as ever, for inspiration.

  3. What a stunning pot of soup. I’ll be making this soon for sure. And as far as I’m concerned your Dad is spot on about having bread and butter with his soup. There’s just no other way!

  4. I used leeks in a squash soup today, and I still have a few leftover. I’m making your leek and potato soup tomorrow. Thank you.

  5. My favourite weekend lunch as child was my Mum’s leek and potato soup served with bread and lots of butter. She adds a blade of mace to the soup while it simmers then fishes it out before blending. It took me a few years of making my own soup to realise that the mace was what transformed my average soup to the amazing soup that tastes of home.

  6. Penny

    I often make this and we take it into work to heat up for lunch – with some bread and butter of course!
    I’ve never quite recovered from Delia’s recipe where she suggests using frozen mashed potato ………..that’s taking cheating too far!

  7. Thank you for this. Blue Peter made me think of Magpie, something to do with the lovely way you weave thoughts and memories and song lyrics. The leeks in the photo are so leek-like it’s almost poetry. Made me think about leeks differently somehow. See you soon xx

  8. Jenifer roddy

    Thank you Rach jx

  9. Rivers overflowing here too, a little too close for comfort. Lovely soup and lovely memories.

  10. Yum, leek and potato soup! love the combination of olive oil and butter with garlic – a great combination of so tender (from butter) and lively (from a good olive oil) flavours.

  11. Beautiful story. Potato and leek soup is my all tome favorite. Thanks!

  12. One of my mum’s regulars when we were kids too, Rachel. Great stuff. “Dick van Dyke as Bert” – literal laugh-out-loud.

  13. Anna

    Hope the cookery book is going well Rachel? I read this and thought of you being just around the corner!

  14. I’m going to make this tomorrow!

  15. I’d like to spend a week eating at your mother’s.

    Ah, leek and potato. One of the first soups I learned to make, from Julia Child. I was still in high school and didn’t have the courage to eat it cold. Your sounds lovely. It’s nice to hear that Romans use immersion blenders. Ciao. Ken

    • rachel

      I’m not sure about proper Romans, But I do, not as much as my mouli but nearly. It has to be really hot for me to eat cold soup, and the though of it on these cold soggy days is not appealing. Hope you are both well?

  16. laura

    Splendid and, as always, inspiring post, Rachel. Thank you. Soups are definitely comfort food in my book and your variation of this one (with details on texture) sounds wonderful. Will go get some more leeks right now.
    Thrilled to know you’re on Instagram … just started following you.
    And lovely to know Luca has new Wellingtons for all the puddles (and lakes these days!) in Rome.

  17. I LOVE Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola. Haha. I also love soups that are vegetal enough that you don’t have to use stock. I forgot to pick up leeks yesterday so I’ll have to get some the next time I’m at the store, which will be in a couple of days because I’m upstate and not in the City, and we are in the process of getting another 17 inches of snow. Too bad because doesn’t that soup sound perfect for this kind of day? I do have everything for split pea so that will have to do for now.

    It’s funny about Delia. Everyone else is popular in the States – Nigel, Nigella, Jamie, Elizabeth David, but not Delia at all. I have her Complete How to Cook and like it a lot, and I make (this sounds horrible, but it isn’t) Meatballs in Goulash Sauce from Delia’s Winter Collection quite often as Walter’s mother was from Budapest, and he grew up eating lots of food cooked with sweet paprika so this hits the spot for him.

    • rachel

      It is, I like her christmas book too. The shortcuts book was bizarre though, I remember getting vaguely hysterical in a book shop (didn’t buy it). 17 inches, blimey, that is deep and the just the weather for soup and soup and braising and more braising – keep warm and well R oxo

  18. Ben

    Hi Rachel,
    how come you post this 2 days before I go on the search for a Leek soup recipe? Serendipity.
    Great recipe. You have solved my family challenge: how to get kids to eat veggies. The 5 yr old had one bowl full, the 8 yr old 3 bowls. Woah! Go the blended vegetables.
    Some rain in Frankfurt, but not too much.

    • rachel

      This is the best sort of comment, so glad and yes yes to kids eating veggies in the form of soft, green soup…of course it does make a hell of a mess when they throw a dinosaur in it. thanks for talking time to let me know _Rx

  19. First: Yes and yes to leeks and potatoes. and to both, together, in soup. and to mr. martin roddy’s spot-on insistence upon bread and butter, astride. we take it almost exactly the same, only simpler still: just leeks, potatoes, water, salt (lots of salt!), plus that naughty splash of cream.

    Second: Our good friend sometimes brings here sweet niece of five from Seattle to come and stay for days. Name: Lola. Honest and for true.

    Third: Oranges, dates, goat cheese, what? How had I never thought of these three? So much lost time to make up…

    • rachel

      yes, lots of salt, far more than any recipe would dare to suggest. As always it is nice to think that our two tables are similarly laden and I look forward to the day when seas are crossed and we are all at the same table xox

  20. Plates of Art

    I like your substitute of potatoes vs. flour! This looks delicious!

  21. Hiya Rachel. Remember me? Nah, that irritating woman who wrote about your FP lasagna post. Someone commented on my about page and I noticed your comment from last year, so then I thought I would check out what had happened to all the posts I had written about. One seems to have disappeared, faded out with no comments and … nothing. But at least you are still here.

    Leek and potato soup. Or vichyssoise in summer. I wrote about it five years ago. Why do I always land on your blog and find you have posted a recipe that I have been doing forever? Hey ho. Pleased to see you are still around and still cooking.

    Btw, I usually add celery. And I particularly like Lola. Had to look it up on youtube to get my fix.

    • rachel

      Hi, of course I remember you. Hope you are well and still stirring things up with your wit and fearless opinions…. and the posts you hated, the lasagna and lamb one… yep, they are still here on the site, the lamb one helped get me an agent which means I am here less but still cooking. Leeks soup and lola, good things both, best R

  22. Linda Gardiner

    dear Rachel, I just came across your blog, it’s wonderful. I live in Paris surrounded by food markets and bakers, cheese shops, butchers, wine shops, and all the rest, but Italy still wins the prize for so many things, especially fruit and vegetables. I was delighted to see that you have the exact same recipe standpoint that I do, poised between Make It Up as You Go Along and But We’re In the Lab and Must Measure Everything to Death. I skimmed down to your quince entry, yes indeed, and would suggest (for next October or so) a quince and fig crumble, a Make It Up as You Go Along thing that everyone adored a few months ago when I produced it.

    Looking forward to more entries –

    LG in Paris

    • rachel

      Hello Linda,

      So happy you are here, thank you and it sounds like we have much on common……..Quince and fig crumble sounds like my sort of pudding and I will give it a try just as soon as they both come around again. Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello, best Rx

  23. leeks and potatoes are some of the most compatible vegetables in the world aren’t they? This is a really good recipe. Simple and straightforward and undoubtedly delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  24. This was the first delicious thing we learnt to cook at school! You inspired me to look out for leeks at market and they were finally in so I got to make some for Sat night supper … I tried it with patate viola, they were at market too and I’d never used them before.. they gave the soup a darker hue and probably sounds horrible but lovely flecks of purple. Thank you!

    • rachel

      I love that you made it, I love that you used purple potatoes even more. We need to have a drink one day (while our boys jump around like lunatics) x

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