Leek and Saffron Soup

We used to make this soup when I worked at Carrier’s restaurant in Islington. It isn’t difficult, and was often the commis cook’s job.

If you didn’t already know, Robert Carrier was a major influence in the awakening of public interest in food in the sixties. He wrote regularly in the Sunday Times and managed to draw into his columns much of the tone and feel of the Mediterranean, so that his recipes seemed part of an alluring travelogue rather than mere ingredient lists.

At the time, it was a brave move for him to open a restaurant. He had advocated a definite approach to food in his writing, and was a target for bitchy sniping, some from competitor journalists, and some from people he had miffed in his articles. It was certainly one of Britain’s best restaurants in its day, and I learned a lot there.

Carrier didn’t cook, but compiled the menu and dictated the style. It was a good arrangement for the cooks, because we knew very little outside the classical repertoire. None of us had heard of satay, or lamb in Greek pastry, nor even French bourgeois dishes like boeuf à la ficelle.

We made few soups in the restaurant. This was my favourite, and we had it at home adding mussels or chicken leftovers to make it more of a meal. The quantities are sufficient for eight people. It’s not worth making less, and you can freeze it before the cream is added.

Read more

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (225 g) chicken winglets
  • 1 lb (450 g) leeks
  • 8 oz (225 g) potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • oz (5 g) saffron
  • 2 fl oz (50 ml) white wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Complete

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 fl oz (120 ml) double cream

Method

  1. Roast the chicken winglets in a hot oven – say, 400°F (200°C) Gas 6 – until they start to colour, about 20 minutes. Lift them from the roasting tray into a saucepan. Deglaze the roasting tray by adding a little water and bringing to the boil. This will extract the chicken flavour, in the same way as gravy making, from the tray. Pour this into the saucepan with the winglets, along with 2½ pints (1.5 litres) water.
  2. Bring this to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Lift the winglets from the stock. Separate the meat from the bones, and return the meat to the stock.
  4. Cut the leeks into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces. Peel and cube the potatoes to the same size. Peel and chop the onion and the celery stalk. Wash them all in plenty of cold water.
  5. Add the vegetables and the saffron to the stock. Put a lid on the pan, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.
  6. Liquidise the soup base in a blender.
  7. Add the white wine, and carefully adjust the seasoning. You will need plenty of salt because of the potato.

To Complete

  1. To finish the soup, mix the egg yolks and cream in a bowl. Pour a cupful of soup on to this mixture and whisk them together, then return this to the saucepan and stir it in.
  2. Serve immediately. Do not re-boil or the egg and cream liaison will curdle.
Loading
Loading
Loading