On 2 April 2020, just after lockdown, I went to a fancy private hospital in the West End to have my left boob removed. Because the NHS was overwhelmed with covid patients, a few fortunate people like me had surgery in the sort of hospitals normally only frequented by the very rich or those with exceptional health insurance. The hospital actually had a menu for each meal which was like a restaurant (and a proper chef). Not knowing how I would feel after the surgery, I ordered chicken, potato and leek soup with a crusty roll and lemon meringue Pie for dinner. Luckily the surgery went without complication and I woke up feeling hungry. This soup was like the nectar of the gods and don’t get me started on the pie. Lemon meringue is my all time favourite dessert… And because I had it in the hospital, I like to pretend it is really healthy.
I will never know whether that bowl of soup on 2 April tasted so delicious because I was just so relieved that the surgery was over, but I think this is a considerable improvement on a normal potato and leek soup. I have, of course, played around with it to get as much flavour out of it as possible.
1 small onion
2 large potatoes
1.5lt chicken stock
1 large chicken breast
Creme fraiche or double cream if you prefer (optional)
Remove the skin from the chicken breast and fry it in some butter on a low heat until cooked through. Don’t brown it too much as you want delicate and soft chicken. Set the chicken aside to cool.
Chop the leeks and onion and saute over a low heat until soft before adding the chopped potatoes. Cover with the chicken stock, add a decent dash of Worcestershire sauce and some black pepper, bring to the boil and leave to simmer until the potatoes are really soft. About 30 mins should be enough but I often get caught up doing other things and leave it quite a bit longer.
When it is cool, chop the chicken into small pieces. Put into a small bowl and cover with hot chicken stock for about 20 mins. This softens the chicken further, adding to the restorative feel of the soup. Then drain and set aside again.
Once the potatoes are really soft, drain off the stock into a bowl but do not throw it away. Leave the veg to cool (you could do yourself a serious injury if you don’t ) before blitzing with a stick blender or food processor until really smooth and stir through the reserved stock. Depending upon how thick you like your soup (I like it really thick), you might not need to use all of it.
Add the chicken pieces and simmer for another 15 mins. Keep the heat low so that it doesn’t catch.
To serve, grate a little nutmeg over the top, add some finely chopped chives and a dollop of creme fraiche or cream if you like. Serve with a crusty roll.