Monday, November 02, 2009

Porrusalda (Basque Potato Leek Soup)

There is something of a debate about cooking technique that occasionally rears its head in our house. On the one side, there is the practice of long, slow cooking. Soups and sauces are simmered for several hours, developing surprisingly deep flavors and smooth textures. On the other, there's the desire to cook fast and furious over high heat, and take the soup pot off the stove because come on it's done enough and I'm really hungry! I'm embarrassed to say that I represent the latter camp.

Whenever I manage to quiet my impatient grumbling and let something simmer for the alloted time, I'm usually floored by the results. This soup is an especially good example of the startling transformation that can be achieved through slow cooking. As in much of Basque cooking, the emphasis isn't on a handful of spices or flashy additions, but on a careful treatment of fresh vegetables. The ingredients are as humble as they come -- just a handful of root vegetables and some water -- but the resulting soup is full of flavor.

Porrusalda (Basque Potato Leek Soup)

as interpreted by IƱaki Guridi
yields one large pot

Traditionally, the potatoes aren't cut with a knife, but broken into rough-edged pieces that release more starch to thicken the soup. To do this, slide a paring knife halfway through a peeled potato, about 1.5" down. Press the potato between your thumb and the knife, and twist to free a chunk roughly 1.5" square (although, of course, it won't be square). Repeat until the whole potato is reduced to rough chunks.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced into thick rounds
3 waxy red or yellow potatoes, peeled and broken into chunks (see note above)
4 leeks, washed and sliced into 1" rounds
4 large (or 6 small) carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
water to cover
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and potatoes, and saute for a few minuts. Add the leeks and carrots, and saute for another minute. Add water to cover by 1", and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered for about 2 hours (or, ideally, longer), stirring occasionally. Season to taste with additional salt.


  1. Wow, this sounds wonderful! I could eat leeks every day, I just love them! I like the long cooking time for this soup. I bet it's very flavorful!

  2. This soup is shockingly flavorful, given how simple it is. As I sit here in our unseasonable cold whipping winds, I can't believe I haven't made another batch already. I'll pick up some leeks tomorrow....

  3. we eat this soup in wintertime... the only problem in California, is that people dont know how to grow leeks. Leeks are grown in two phases so u get a bigger white stem ( which is the part of the leek that you want to use for cooking. the green part is not as soft and it is bitter)

  4. In England we have Leek & Potato Soup, basically the same only made with butter and cream instead of the olive oil,

  5. I use vegetable broth instead of water. Love this soup!