My poor, sad blog is coming out of hibernation to bring you this update: whiskey is my new favorite ingredient in veggie soup.
You may recall my blog post last year on St. Patrick’s Day that featured a pub-style vegetable soup. Since that’s what I ate each day on my trip to Ireland a couple years back, I figured I’d try to outdo myself on the previous version and relive the experience once more. It may not be as rich as a Steak and Guinness Pie, nor as hearty as Dublin Coddle, but it’s still total comfort food in my book. And, since I’ve been trying to get back into healthier habits I figured lots of vegetables would help the cause.
I quickly checked in with an expert, and by that I mean I Googled a legitimate recipe for Irish vegetable soup just to get a basic feel for how it’s done correctly. Turns out it’s all about keeping the basic ratio of alliums and potatoes to other vegetables. The rest is up to the cook’s fancy. With that in mind, I’m not going to type a detailed recipe for you today because you don’t need one. Just be sure to use fresh vegetables that you love and adjust the seasonings as you go until it tastes to your liking.
Start with two or three leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed well and sliced. Saute those in some olive oil until softened. Add a few stalks of chopped celery and a couple diced carrots. Saute some more. Add a large parsnip (diced) and some cubed gold potatoes that have been well scrubbed (mine were a little past their prime so I peeled them, but you can leave the skins on if you like.) Toss in a couple of bay leaves, minced fresh garlic or garlic powder, white and/or black pepper, some fresh or dried thyme, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, parsley or chervil, or whichever herbs you like best. Add enough water or vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer; add some salt (start with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp – you can always add more but if you add too much, it’s game over).
Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart. Ladle 1/3 of the soup into a blender. Add two tablespoons of roasted hazelnut butter and some cold water – about 1/3 cup or so – just enough to get it to blend smooth. Pour the puree into a large vessel and puree the remaining soup, this time adding a bit of milk (I used oat milk) to make it easier to liquify. Add the pureed batches back into the soup pot. Stir in two tablespoons of good Irish whiskey, two tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice and about one or two tablespoons of natural sweetener (local honey or maple syrup) to balance the flavors. Bring to a simmer, taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cook for 10 minutes on medium low heat. Remember that it can take a few minutes for the flavors to develop so if adding additional salt or seasoning, a little at a time is best. For the best flavor, chill overnight and reheat gently before serving.
Oh, and about that bread — it’s whole wheat carrot bread and is the perfect thing to eat alongside this soup. I adapted it slightly from a recipe by a fellow Wisconsinite, who also happened to submit it to the WI State Fair. While it’s traditional in Ireland to eat soup with brown bread, unfortunately I forgot to order the special Irish-style whole wheat flour to make it. Maybe next year I’ll be more organized, but I have no regrets about trying this recipe as it is astoundingly good.