Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fennel-Potato Soup

Zefa Fino Fennel
Here's one from another favorite English chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose farm-to-table restaurant, River Cottage, was featured in a television show we chanced to see while staying in a hotel in Cambridge, England on our honeymoon.  We didn't get to eat at the River Cottage, but we did come home and buy one of Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbooks.  Here's what he has to say about this soup: "A lovely, soothing, creamy soup, like a faintly aniseedy vichyssoise.  Served with one of the suggested toppings below, it's posh enough for a dinner party.  If you're serving it on a hot summer's day, it's delicious chilled."  Since August can't seem to decide this year whether it belongs in summer or fall, I thought that sounded about right.

Also, happily, our fennel harvest and our first fall potato harvest happen to fall on the same week!  Pats on the back all around.

from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

serves 4

1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped (feathery fronds saved, if they look good)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
about 3 cups chicken, fish or vegetable stock
6 Tablespoons heavy cream or creme fraiche (optional)
Kennebec potatoes

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, celery, garlic, and fennel, plus a good pinch of salt.  Stir well, then cover and cook gently for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the potatoes and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pan (or use an immersion blender in the pan).  Add a little more stock or water if it seems too thick.  Stir in the cream, if you're using it, then season to taste.  Reheat gently before serving, or chill and serve cold.

This is delicious with any of the following toppings:

  • The feathery fronds from the fennel, finely snipped and stirred into a little yogurt.
  • Croutons or coarse breadcrumbs fried in garlicky oil.
  • Crumbled fresh goat cheese.
  • Pesto.
  • Flakes of cooked smoked pollock* or trout, or snippets of smoked salmon.

*I'm not familiar with this; a British fish?  Any relation to Jackson?

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