Are you a pickle lover? If the answer is yes, you'll go crazy for Leek and Pickle Soup. The tang of dill pickles brings this light and silky soup alive, making your taste buds dance and setting your lips a-smacking! (Skip to recipe.)
It's winter and it's soup time, but I'm craving something lighter. I'm tired of all the heavy sweaters and clomping around in big boots. Wrapping up in toques and scarves (and the resulting hat hair) is becoming tedious. Plugging in vehicles that groan when you start them, air so cold it hurts your face, scraping out the dog's frozen water bowl: those winter wonders are wearing thin. I want to pull out my summer skirts and dig out the garden tools. I want to feel warm breezes on my face and eat popsicles on the deck.
But . . . (sigh) . . . no.
Those pleasures are still months away.
However, this light and deliciously tangy soup is my way of thumbing my nose at Old Man Winter. Yes, it's a soup made with all those wonderful winter staples: potatoes, leeks, and that jar of homemade pickles you've got stashed on your pantry shelves. But when you put 'em all together, you've got a light and silky soup that tastes more like spring than winter. Just what I need.
The German in me can never resist anything with a dill pickle in it. (That's why Rouladen are such a beloved German dish.) This soup is inspired by the pickle soup I love to order whenever I get a chance to eat at Continental Treat, a fantastic old-world European bistro/restaurant in Edmonton. I always go in there thinking, This time I'll order something else, and always end up ordering a bowl of their mouthwatering pickle soup . . . again. I just can't resist it. Theirs is rich and creamy and full of vegetable snippets along with pickle bits.
Mine is a little lighter and came about because I had a mound of leeks to use up one day. This soup was born and that's how I've made it ever since. (My heart still has room for the rich and creamy soup at Continental Treat, though, and I know I'll order it again when I can get there.) The leeks and potatoes get pureed into a silky broth, laced through with little bits of crunchy pickle. The tang is just light enough to make you salivate and smile, but not overwhelming. This unusual soup is a surprise and a delight.
It dresses up or down with equal style. I've served Potato, Leek and Pickle Soup as an elegant first course for dinner guests, and I've packed it into my thermos for working lunches. It gets rave reviews and lip-smacking approval any time. I love it with a generous swoosh of cream stirred into my bowl, but it's great just as it is if you want a lighter option.
Serve it with a hot flaky gluten-free biscuit or a slice of hearty rye bread slathered with butter (for the non gluten-free diners out there.)
Pickle Lovers Rejoice! This soup is for you!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Dried dill doesn't have nearly the same bright, verdant flavour as fresh or frozen dill. I love having frozen chopped dill in my freezer. When I have lots of dill in my garden in the summer or when I find nice fresh bundles of it in the grocery stores in the winter, I chop it and freeze it.
To prepare it I rinse it, then lay it out in a layer on a clean tea towel. I roll it up like a jelly roll, then put the rolled towel into a plastic grocery bag and seal it shut. I keep it in the fridge overnight; this allows the towel to absorb the excess moisture so the dill is nice and dry. The next day I chop the dill fronds (reserving the stems to freeze for soups or stocks). I put the chopped dill into a freezer bag or container; it keeps fresh when frozen for several months. To use it I just scrape some from the frozen clump with a fork, right into my dish. It adds the same bright flavour as fresh dill does.
If you have fresh broth - great. If not, a good quality purchased broth or a good broth concentrate (I like 'Better than Bouillon') will work in this Leek and Pickle Soup, too.
gluten free, dairy free options, vegan options
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons/60ml) butter, ghee, or oil
- 3 large leeks, white and light green part only, quartered lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced (about 6 cups/500gms chopped)
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups (2 quarts/1.9litres) chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 2½ lbs (1.15kg) potatoes (about 6 cups peeled and diced)
- 2 cups (280gms) diced dill pickles - ½ inch/1cm dice (I use these homemade ones)
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 4 teaspoons dried dill weed
- 2 to 4 tablespoons (30-60mls) pickle juice, to taste
- optional garnish: a drizzle of sweet cream, a spoonful of sour cream, or a bit of crumbled feta cheese added at serving time
For dairy free option: use oil instead of butter and omit the dairy garnishes.
For vegan option: use oil instead of butter, use vegetable stock, omit the dairy garnishes.
To cut the leeks: trim off the dark green ends (freeze them to add to soup stock). Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse them under cold running water, opening up the layers a bit to allow the water to run in and rinse any soil away. Lay the leeks, cut side down, on a cutting board and slice each half lengthwise down the middle to make quarters. Slice the quarters crosswise into ¼-inch (.5cm) slices. You should have about 6 cups.
Heat the butter, ghee, or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or large dutch oven. Add the diced leeks and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes until the leeks are wilted but not browned.
While the leeks are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch (2cm) cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Set them aside.
To the sautéed leeks in the stock pot, add the salt, white pepper, bay leaf, chicken or vegetable stock, and diced potatoes.
Bring to a boil, the lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook the soup for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft. Remove the bay leaf.
Add the diced dill pickles and chopped dill. Add 2 tablespoons of pickle juice. Purée the soup with an immersion blender until it is mostly smooth, with small chunks of dill pickle still visible. Taste and add more pickle juice, salt or white pepper if the soup needs it. With homemade dill pickles I find I need the full amount of the pickle juice. Depending if your pickles are more or less sour, you may not need all of it. (Saltiness will depend on the salt level of your stock and the type of pickles you use.)
Serve the soup with a swirl of whipping cream, a dollop of sour cream or a handful of crumbled feta cheese in each bowl. (Omit for dairy free.)
Serves 6 to 8 . The soup freezes well.
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