This soup came from our garden. Em, from two leeks the size of pencils to be precise. Both have been looking guiltily at me in their rain-soaked winter soil so I threw them into a soup with some (intake of breath) - shop bought leeks and potato.
Being a food and gardening fan I can't help feeling guilty when I load up in the local vegetable shop, and even moreso in the supermarket. But not being superhuman I have yet to find the time to grow all my own veg, milk goats every morning and chase a few hens around the sitting room. What veg I do grow is paltry but a very pleasing crop, and unless you have lots of time to do keep a smallholding running at full tilt, the demon activity - food shopping is still a big part of most of our lives.
The way I rationalise it is to try and shop locally but I still end up visiting a supermarket once a month. And no, all the veg I buy is not locally farmed. I'm afraid I still like fresh tomatoes in the winter alongside chillies, peppers, aubergines etc, none of which grow in Ireland at this time of year. What I look for is vegetables coming from as near as possible, and buying it from a local person which is easy enough - we've a big veg shop five minutes drive away. He also stocks eggs from a farmer up the road, and Wicklow produce when in season.
It's at least better to spend money in his local business than in the multiples, especially as the food documentary I'm working on is bringing me deeper and deeper into the goings on behind the shiny happy smiles of some of our best known supermarkets. The more I know the more I try to avoid them.
In terms of how they treat Irish suppliers Superquinn and Supervalue seem to come out tops and they have a high level of commitment to stocking Irish beef, pork and chicken. So do Aldi surprisingly enough. These businesses also seem to understand that some, but not all consumers want to buy food from Ireland, so it's money in their pocket as well. There will always be cheap as chips food but there will also be premium customers who want good quality Irish food. It's just sad that more supermarkets don't go this direction.
So spreading my shop between local suppliers and the supermarkets is a reasonable enough compromise as far as I'm concerned, and unless I grow my own dishwasher tablets any day now, I don't see myself being totally free of a monthly supermarket visit. So throwing a few of my own veg into a dish alongside shop-bought produce is a way of straddling both camps. In terms of the soup, it has to be one of the easiest and cheapest to make. For four people you'll need -
Three large leeks
Two litres of veg stock (can be stock cubes)
Knob of butter
Pinch of cumin to deepen the flavour
For extra taste you can add small lardons of cooked bacon. You can also pour in as much cream as you want, and grated Gubbeen cheese ups it to another level if you want a luxury version.
Simply clean and chop the leeks in inch long sections, soften in a large pan with the butter. Add the peeled and chopped potato, seasoning and stock and simmer for half an hour or so. Whizz it with a hand blender for a rustic texture (with lumps) or to a smooth cream. Basically, you can' t go wrong. Happy eating x