Sunday, 18 May 2014

Potato, Saffron & Lemon Soup

“…and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks.”

Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe and Everything

Am I a little obsessed with lemons? Definitely! But the reasons for this are simple; a few drops of lemon added to a savoury dish manages to accentuate the flavours of each of the constituent ingredients, will enliven its taste and make eating it more enjoyable and well, just… better! My desserts of choice tend to be lemon based and not the ubiquitous chocolate options that so many people seem to immediately choose. There’s something so elegant about the flavour of lemons and I don’t think that I will ever tire of experimenting with them and seeking new ways to use them.

I have posted quite a few recipes for lemon cakes and desserts, but have not yet provided many savoury recipes where lemon is one of the key flavours. Here is a recipe for an unusual but fabulous tasting soup and one that I think is perfectly suited for eating during spring and summer when you want something refreshing. Unlike many soups intended for the summer months, this one is not chilled or served cold; it is actually served hot, but in the same way that a cup of hot tea can be refreshing on even the warmest summer day, this soup is exactly the same. Whilst I quite like chilled soups, many people are a bit suspicious of them and are not overly keen on eating them – the truth is they just seem so different to the warm comforting soups we generally eat.

This soup is essentially a classic leek and potato soup, but with added saffron and lemon. Word cannot describe how lovely it is and with its bright yellow colour would look perfect served as the first course of a summer dinner.

The lemon flavour does not dominate but it is definitely distinguishable and manages to stop the saffron from tasting “soapy” which can often be an issue when used to excess or when not mitigates by other flavours.

I have served the soup simply with a small amount of cream and some chives, but it is also delicious served with some cubes of cooked new potatoes which have been gently sautéed in some butter.

I can’t recall where I first came across this soup or where the idea came from… I think it may have been in an old cookery book written by Robert Carrier in the 1960s – a chef who presented a number of hugely popular cookery series of the era.


300g leeks, white parts only, chopped into small 2cm pieces
200g potato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1-2 tblsp olive oil
Large pinch of saffron threads
1 litre of vegetable stock, heated
25ml dry white wine
25ml cream
Salt and white pepper to season
To finish:
50ml cream
1 lemon, sliced
2tsp lemon juice
Chives, finely chopped


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then add the leeks, potato, onion and saffron and gently sweat, without colouring for ten minutes. Season well. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for twenty minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
2. Using a hand-held stick blender, purée the soup until it is smooth and return to a clean pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the wine and cream, stir through and heat gently over a low heat, stirring regularly, until it is hot.
To finish:
3. Add several drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the cream and mix through.
4. Serve the soup in bowls with a couple of thin slices of lemon and topped with a spoonful of the lemon cream and a generous sprinkling of chopped chives.
Serves 6.
“Never throw away squeezed lemon, but keep them for the day by the sink. Then you can use them to remove fish, onion or garlic smells from your fingers. Or you can stick them on your elbows while you are reading a book, to soften and whiten your skin.”

Jennifer Paterson: Two Fat Ladies Obsessions