This healthy & hearty take on leek & potato soup skips the dairy & lets the flavors of the lightly roasted vegetables shine. Bonus: use up your holiday ham!
ROAST: Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C. Pile the cauliflower florets in the middle of a baking sheet. Slice the onion into chunky half moons and add them to the sheet with the cauliflower. Drizzle or spray with just enough oil to lightly coat the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then toss together and spread the now seasoned vegetables out on the sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes, flipping over about halfway through so that the vegetables roast and brown but do not burn. Remove from the oven to cool on a trivet.
RINSE: While the vegetables are roasting, chop the leeks into 1/4 inch thick rounds, adding them to a bowl. Cover with cold water and use your hands to stir up and agitate any loose dirt or grit in the leeks. Let the leeks sit submerged for a few minutes, then drain and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. Drain once more.
SOFTEN: Add the damp leeks to the bottom of a dutch oven over low medium heat. Cook, stirring often for a few minutes, until the water from rinsing has evaporated but the leeks have not taken on any color. Add the butter, ghee, or oil of choice to the dutch oven and let it melt. Coo, stirring often, until the leeks are slightly softened and glistening, about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic, letting it warm through in the residual heat but not brown.
BLEND: Transfer the slightly cooled roast vegetables from the sheet tray to the pitcher of your blender. Pour over the chicken broth and blend until you have a smooth & creamy soup base, making sure to leave room for any steam to escape as you work.
WARM: Add the vegetable cream to the dutch oven with the softened leeks & garlic, then add the bay leaves, sea salt, black pepper and thyme. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer, but do not boil.
DICE: While the leek & potato soup base is warming through, peel and chop the potatoes into pieces that are just a little larger than bite size. Add the water to the dutch oven along with the diced potatoes.
SIMMER: Bring the leek & potato soup to a gentle simmer and cook, covered with room for steam to escape, until the potatoes are tender but not too soft, about 30 minutes or so, stirring here and there. Remove and discard the bay leaf. I like to have a thinner soup with chunks of potato throughout, but if you like a thicker soup, put a couple ladles of the soup into the blender and puree until smooth, then add back to the pot to thicken.
SEASON: Add the leftover ham and warm through for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the salt as needed – don’t be tempted to add additional salt until the ham has had a chance to mingle, since they can be very well seasoned! If you like, garnish with plenty of fresh cracked pepper and herbs like chives or dill.