Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup

Another hearty vegetarian soup, one that I occasionally make with the somewhat perverse inclusion of a ham hock... sorry veges. 

If you are growing your own potatoes this is a fabulous way to celebrate your harvest.  Baking the potatoes first really intensifiies the flavour of the spuds and is worth the time investment!
Fried dried shallots can be found in most supermarkets and certainly in all Asian supermarkets. For such a simple ingredient they add a punch of flavour and a little crunch that transforms the soup.  They are a great ingredient to have in the pantry for ready-made intense flavour boosts.

1.5kg washed potatoes (Fluffy mashing variety like Nadine, Kestrel or King Edward)
1 whole large onion with 2 cloves pressed into it
2 garlic cloves, pressed flat but not chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
200mls white wine
1 bay leaf
1 whole stick of celery
Generous sprig of rosemary
2 teaspoons dried, fried shallots
Tablespoon of butter or cream (optional)
250mls full fat milk
1 leek, very finely sliced into slivers
Pinch of mace
Pinch of very finely chopped tarragon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon horseradish or English mustard
Handful of chives, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 210°C

In a large roasting tray, spread the potatoes evenly and prick the skins with a fork.  Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are nearly but not fully cooked.  Remove from the oven and scoop out the flesh into a large saucepan.  Do not discard the skins – add these to the stock as they are chock-full of flavour.
Add the wine, stock, celery, onion, garlic, bayleaf and rosemary.  Simmer gently until the potatoes just start to break down but do not allow the mixture to boil. 
Remove the potato skins, onion, garlic, bay leaf, celery and rosemary and discard.
Add the butter/cream and milk to the stock.  Mash in the potatoes until they have a silky smooth slurry consistency.  Alternatively use a stick blender to pulverise the potatoes into the soup liquid.
Add the shards of leek, dried shallots, tarragon, mace, horseradish, salt and pepper and bring back to the simmer for 15 minutes. 

Check seasoning, adjust if necessary but do not over salt the potatoes as the soup can become gluggy.
Lastly add a sprinkle of chives.

Serve with crusty bread and a few fried shallots sprinkled on top of the soup.