In this master recipe we are aiming to achieve a smooth and silky soup, packed full of flavour and nourishment and bright green in colour. By varying the green ingredient, you need never tire of this recipe. The choice of green vegetables that can be used here are many, but we have to choose one to get us going, so my choice is spinach. Choose strong, handsome and really fresh looking leaves and the results will be dazzlingly green.
- 50g butter
- 110g diced onion
- 140g potatoes, peeled and diced
- 350g spinach leaves or your green vegetable of choice, weighed after removing stalks
- 1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock (chicken stock produces the most flavoursome result here)
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Creamy milk, i.e., milk and cream mixed in equal proportion
- If the spinach leaves are big, the central rib will need to be removed before measuring the spinach leaves. If you are using baby spinach, the tender stalks can remain.
- Nutmeg is one of the traditional flavourings for spinach and a small grating would be good here, but always be cautious with the addition of nutmeg as you know that too much nutmeg can spoil the pudding. Or the soup in this case.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and allow to foam. Add the onions and potatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss with a wooden spoon to coat in the butter.
- Cover with a greaseproof paper lid and the lid of the saucepan and cook on a very low heat for 10 minutes or so. This is called 'sweating' the vegetables. The object of the exercise is to soften the vegetables slightly with no colour at all. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cover again with the saucepan lid. Simmer until the onion and potato are completely tender and starting to collapse. This will take about 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid of the saucepan and add the spinach - do not replace the saucepan lid. Bring to a simmer and cook until the spinach is tender. This can take from 1-2 minutes for baby spinach to 5 minutes for large leaves. If you cannot tell by looking at the vegetable if it is cooked, taste a little and it should be tender and slippery.
- Purée immediately with a hand held blender or in a liquidiser. Add a little more stock or creamy milk if the soup is too thick. Taste and correct seasoning.
- If not serving immediately, do not cover as this will spoil the green colour. Serve in hot soup bowls, garnished with a little blob of cream or a few drops of olive oil.
- The green vegetable you use will determine the flavour of the finished soup. Spinach is my choice here but any of the following vegetables produce an excellent result: green cabbage at any time of the year with tough ribs removed from the leaves and finely chopped is excellent; nettles, watercress, wild garlic leaves, diced courgettes or cucumbers, Swiss chard leaves, pea and bean leaves, dark green lettuce leaves, and so on.