When I was a child attending mass at church on Good Friday, we used to say it rained every Good Friday, the weather in keeping with the gloomy occasion. I dimly remember how long a traditional Roman Catholic Good Friday mass was, how often we had to stand and kneel over and over again as the priests and various others read aloud the parts of Jesus and Pontius Pilate, the disciples and the Roman guards while us parishioners read aloud the parts of the crowd in the events of the Passion. I always remembered the mass ending in silence (so unlike the usual Sunday morning masses which ended in song and a certain glee as us kids made straight for the exit – and for slushies at the local 7-11) and the altar left bare and in darkness, and I would always remember walking away in the gloom (Good Friday mass was an evening mass) and in the rain. Because it always rained on Good Friday or at least that’s how I remember it in my dim memories as a child.
Easter Sunday, however, was supposed to be a day of lightness and joy, harking back to its origins as a festival day of spring and the German dawn goddess Eostre, a day which was eventually absorbed by the Christians in their celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus. It was Easter – coloured eggs and bright sunshine and funky pastels!
Fast forward 15 years, though, and things have changed. I’ve spent this Easter at work and nursing a hangover after a late night at a jazz club (sorry, Mum! I’m a total lapsed Catholic these days) and furthermore, we’re in Australia and it’s fall, not spring. The weather has been in the complete reverse. Good Friday dawned bright and light and cool, a perfect day for the beginning of a four-day long weekend. Saturday was another beautiful day which almost felt like summer but by Sunday the weather was cool and crisp with a little early winter snap to it. By Monday afternoon, after a girls’ lunch over wine, beer, chocolate and some delicious tapas at Salt on the Beach, I found myself walking along the beach with my friend and her little son, in defiance of the grey skies overhead and a cool salty breeze whipping our hair. And by Monday night we were curled up at home with the heater on and a light rain splashing down outside in the darkness. Autumn has shrugged off her golden summer dresses and laid on her grey silk wraps.
Now it’s Tuesday and the sky has been London grey all morning, the buildings shrouded in drizzle and fog, making me think of the Twilight Bark in 101 Dalmations. The whole of Australia has been rolling out of bed with a groan and donning on rain jackets as they prepared to trudge back to work after the hedonism of the long weekend.
With the cool weather and the need for some vegetables after the indulgence of wine and chocolates this Easter weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to brew up a comforting bowl of leek and onion soup. Something light and healthy but still hearty enough for this cool, grey autumn weather.
I’ve been having a love affair with leeks throughout the summer and it hasn’t abated. I love their light spring minty colour and I love how easy they are to prepare and to cook and I love their light delicate taste, reminiscent of both the tanginess of an onion and the green freshness of spring onions but with a mild sweetness that is uniquely leek-esque. Yup, I said leek-esque.
I’ve been using leeks as a side vegetable to dishes – mainly roasts – but now it’s time for the leek to be the star of its own show. I wasn’t sure how much flavour leek soup would have but as it turned out, once you’ve caramelised the leeks and onion in butter beforehand, it was full of flavour. Especially if you prepare the soup a day or two earlier before reheating the leftovers. Flavour just bursting in your mouth, sweet and euphoric and just perfect for a cool grey day.
Leek and Onion Soup (serves two; double portions for four)
- Three leeks
- One white onion
- One generous pat of butter (and when I say generous, I mean generous. Don’t get shy now!)
- One smaller pat of butter
- Two cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Sea salt
- Two cups of chicken stock
- One chorizo sausage of small to medium size
- A small dollop of sour cream
- Olive oil
Wash and trim leeks and chop into small pieces. Peel onion and chop up into thin slices as well. Peel and chop the garlic into small pieces but don’t worry about mincing it as you will be blending it up in the soup later.
Place your soup pot over medium heat and add the generous pat of butter, making sure to coat the entire base of the pot as the butter melts. Add leeks and onions and toss well to coat with butter. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring well, before adding the garlic, smoked paprika, a generous swirl of freshly cracked pepper (or less, depending on your taste) and just a few grains of sea salt for taste. Mix well and let cook for another couple of minutes before adding the chicken stock.
Reduce to a low heat and let simmer for five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While soup is simmering, heat your second, smaller pat of butter in a pan on medium heat. Chop up your chorizo into thin slices and add to the pan. Stir well to ensure chorizo is well coated with butter and let cook for a couple of minutes or until chorizo is crispy and hot. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Remove soup from heat and blend until smooth, using either a blender or stick blender. (You might need to add a little water to thin out if the consistency of the soup is too thick. I kept half a kettle of freshly boiled water on the side just in case and I only added a very little water to get the right consistency).
Spoon soup into serving bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, a quick drizzle of olive oil and top with chorizo slices. Curl up on the sofa and enjoy while listening to the rain.