Everyone knows that potatoes are big in Ireland, but not everyone knows it wasn't always that way. According to The History Place, it was Spanish conquerors who discovered the Incas growing potatoes. The conquerors took the vegetable back to Europe and in about 1590, potatoes were introduced to Irish farmers who were ecstatic to learn that the vegetable thrives in Ireland's cool, moist soil.

So, what did the people of Ireland consume before being introduced to potatoes? Dairy. Lots and lots of dairy. Before potatoes took over the land (pretty much literally) , the cattle industry boomed in Ireland and people incorporated dairy into anything and everything. Butter, cream, milk- if it could be made with dairy, it was part of the daily Irish diet.

With the arrival of St. Patrick's Day sneaking up on us, I thought it only fitting that I share with you my favorite recipe for a traditional Irish soup that combines three Irish loves- potatoes, leeks, and dairy. Some people call this leek and potato soup, while others call it potato and leek soup.  I've always called it potato leek. Whatever you call it, this soup is delicious!

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves of peeled and minced garlic
  • 1 pound of leeks, clean well and slice the white part
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Melt one tablespoon of unsalted butter in a big saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the two peeled and minced garlic cloves, one pound of leeks (remember, you only want the white part), and the one pound of peeled and sliced potatoes. Cook all of this goodness for about eight minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next, add to the saucepan, four cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add a cup of heavy cream and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are nice and tender. Pour everything into a blender and puree. Pour into bowls, salt and pepper to taste, and top with shredded cheddar cheese and additional sliced leeks, if you'd like.

[via The History Place/BonAppetit]