South African potato and leek soup

The days are shortening; the wind is slowing; the chill is creeping; and the rain is threatening.  Most evenings nowadays seem like perfect evenings for earthy soups, my favorite fuzzy blue blanket draped around me like a cape, the couch, work avoidance, and a TV series marathon instead.

Last year I discovered leeks in my weekly bag of Harvest of Hope veggies, an amazing and empowering initiative driven by women in the Cape Flats who learn to grow and harvest veggies to feed their families and bring beautiful, seasonal, organic, local veggies to our doorsteps.  At first I found leeks to be somewhat flat, leafy, and seemingly unappetizing but as the bushels piled up in my fridge, my curiosity built as well, so I started adding small amounts to my dishes and was pleasantly surprised. They then became one of my favorite accents in stirfrys, eggs, pastas, and soups…

I had been yearning for my leeks all summer and finally, last week, I saw a gigantic bushel at the store and my heart warmed my chilly bones!  I immediately knew exactly what I would make and stocked up on all the ingredients.

South African potato and leek soup (serves 4)


  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic
  • 1 bushel leeks chopped
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 300g butternut peeled and cubed (the special South African flare)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • ground salt and pepper to taste
  1. Melt the butter in a pan and saute the garlic and onions until lightly browned
  2. Add the leeks, white pepper, paprika, salt and some ground pepper and saute until softened and fragrant for about 5 minutes
  3. Add the potatoes, butternut, chicken broth and wine
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes
  5. When the potatoes and butternut have softened, mash up the ingredients and mix in the milk
  6. Blend the soup in a blender and serve with freshly ground pepper and toasted cheesy bread

Veggie Risotto

The very first time I had risotto was during my second year of university.  I can’t believe I went 19 years without eating it!  A friend made asparagus risotto and it ended in violent food poisoning for him but a content tummy and a whole new world of risotto cooked with everything for me.  Food poisoning will always mystify me despite that I took epidemiology of infectious diseases last year and learned all about the nasty culprits – food handlers – and how to track a food poisoning outbreak.

Renee (who taught me how to make grape pizza) also made a killerrrrrrr veggie risotto that was so delicious, so foodgasmic, and so moreish in every way.  When I moved to South Africa I tried my hand at making risotto for Ty and I.  No pun intended, because making risotto entails pretty much continual stirring for about 40 minutes that ends in a dead arm. Risotto is kind of like a baby. You feed it, nurture it, and help it grow.  My all time favorite risotto is chicken marsala risotto but I struggle to find marsala wine here in South Africa, so the next best thing is risotto with anything else.

One major barrier to making risotto is that Ty passionately hates parmesan cheese, which is a critical ingredient.  He cannot bare the unpleasant smell and taste produced by Butyric acid, the same ingredient found in vomit.  I on the other hand, love parmesan regardless and am appalled by Ty’s distaste.  Nevertheless, to appease him, I add a small handful of whatever cheese we have in stock instead of parmesan.

This is my Veggie Risotto recipe.  I tend to just add whatever veggies I have in the fridge and so I encourage you to go crazy and add whatever your heart desires.

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 cup risotto rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cheese (gouda, cheddar, edam)
  • 125g brown mushrooms coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped squash (zucchini, patty pan, round zucchini)
  • 1 chopped red or yellow pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • salt and pepper
  1. melt the butter in a pan and sautee the onions and garlic until lightly browned
  2. add the dry risotto and stir for about 5 minutes
  3. mix together the wine and chicken broth
  4. turn the heat down and add about 1/4 cup broth at a time and stir until the broth is absorbed
  5. while the risotto is cooking, in a separate pan, add some oil and sautee the veggies with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and paprika until al dente
  6. if you run out of broth and the risotto is still not fully cooked (a bit crunchy in the center), add more water and let it absorb. it should take about 40 minutes for the risotto to fully cook
  7. when the risotto is almost done (fluffy and gooey), stir in the veggies and cheese
  8. enjoy!