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Welsh Leek Soup "Cawl Cennin"


5 large boiling potatoes
10 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
5 medium-sized leeks (Look for small tender leeks with bright green leaves, if you can find them, and white stems that are not woody or stringy. They grow deep in sandy soil and require careful washing to get all the grit out. Do not tire, it's worth it!)
1 small onion
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 to 3/4 cup heavy sweet cream
Pepper to taste
2 egg yolks
Minced parsley, grated cheddar cheese, crumbled fried bacon, optional garnishes


1. Boil peeled and cutup potatoes in water with salt for about 10 min.
2. Use only the white portions of the leeks. Slice, wash thoroughly and chop fairly fine along with onion.
3. Sauté leeks and onion slowly in hot butter until light golden brown. Sprinkle with flour and stir until flour is absorbed. Add enough of the potato cooking water to make a thin sauce, and then turn sauce back into potatoes, stirring until blended. Continue cooking until potatoes are soft enough to be pureed in a food processor.
Return to soup pot and simmer until blended, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in cream, season to taste, and heat to boiling point.
5. Beat egg yolks until frothy and spoon a little into each soup bowl. Ladle hot soup in and stir to blend in yolk. Sprinkle with parsley, cheese and/or bacon and serve.
Variation: Potatoes can be cubed and not pureed at all.
Yields 10-12 cups

My husband's Welsh cooks, on his mother's side, knew the secret of cooking with leeks. They upgraded it from ordinary vichysoisse to more elegant cuisine! This ancient member of the onion family has been celebrated world wide, from the Egyptians as a symbol of the universe to the Hebrews who longed for it in their wilderness wanderings, to the British and Welsh. [Trivial Pursuit fans: Edward, Duke of Windsor, as the Prince of Wales, displayed an elaborately stitched leek emblem on his tunic collar.] For you literature buffs, Shakespeare referred to the leek, strongly symbolic of Wales, in Henry V, in jest, when Pistol taunts Fluellen about his Welshness, and is forced to eat a raw leek. To be fair and balanced, this gentle veggie is less regarded elsewhere in Europe where it's reputation is "poor man's asparagus."

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