Remember your Grandma’s old fashioned stew? They’re simple, basic, warm, comforting, healthy, nutritious, appetizing and SO immensely flavorful! Then there are also the one’s she’d make when her little grandchild is down unwell, fussy, grumpy and unhappy in bed with the seasonal runny nose. These Grandma-made porridges, stews, bouillons and soups are always that extra special. And our Mom’s would treasure and preserve these precious recipes and pass them on to us after they trust us with our Kitchen skills.
In France, Potages have always been believed to be nourishing and healing since medieval times, and have featured in the World’s earliest known culinary manuscripts in Europe. Potages probably originated in Northern France as a “First Course Meal”, and were prominently served in hospitals throughout the country. These are usually thick soups or stews made by simmering or boiling together a few fresh garden vegetables, often with meat, and cooking them to a soft pulpy broth. Most common Potages are vegetarian stocks.
Though initially, Potages were made exclusively for the hard working farmers, they began to be oftentimes cooked at home as well as by gourmet chefs at boutique restaurants. In fact, several French households still customarily start their supper with a Potage. It is definitely frugal!
As an ode to these nutritious and hearty soups, I am sharing this special recipe that often nourishes my kin. I do a very simple vegetarian version with sweet potato and celery, and throw in a couple spices to pep up the flavor. I like my Potage with whole milk, since it adds in extra food-value plus flavor to this dish, making it wholesome. I start with cooking chopped veggies together and use a blender towards the end, keeping up with the tradition of how Potages were originally made into a mushy broth and mashed together. For a rather creamier texture, I also stir in some grated sharp cheddar. To further punch in some nutrition, you could replace the water used here with Vegetable or Chicken broth. Alternatively, you could also throw in some Broccoli or cooked/shredded boneless chicken. Moreover, to cut down on some calories, you could use reduced fat instead of the whole milk suggested here (but with whole milk, it’ll always be tastier and thicker!). If you like it more savory, replace some of the sweet potato pieces with regular potatoes and customize your Potage!
Serves 2 – 3
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 or 3 Star Anise
- 3 tbsp chopped Onions (preferably white onions)
- 1 tbsp chopped Garlic (I used 3 large cloves of garlic)
- 1.5 cups chopped Celery (use tender and crisp stalks)
- 1.25 cups Sweet Potato, cut into cubes
- 1.5 cup Whole Milk
- 0.5 cup water
- 0.5 cup shredded, Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 tbsp light Olive oil
- Fresh ground black pepper (optional)
- Dried red chilly flakes for garnish (optional)
- A dollop of Sour Cream to finish (optional)
- In a deep pan, heat the olive oil, bay leaves, star anise and garlic. Let splutter for a quick few seconds.
- Add the onions and saute for about a minute
- Add the chopped celery and sweet potato cubes, and stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat.
- Pour in 1 cup milk and 0.5 cup water and let the veggies cook for about 10 minutes or until done.
- Once the vegetables have cooked and softened, switch off the stove, and let the broth cool down a bit.
- Carefully fish out and discard the bay leaves and star anise.
- Transfer the pan contents into a blender and puree into a smooth and creamy mixture.
- Pour the contents from the blender back into your pan over low-medium heat. Add the remaining 0.5 cup milk and all of the shredded cheddar cheese. Let the Potage simmer for a little until all the cheese melts and mixes in.
- Stir and adjust salt. Remove pan from stove and serve your lovely Potage in soup bowls.
- Sprinkle fresh ground pepper. Add a pinch of chilly flakes. And enjoy the comforting soup with a dollop of sour cream, by the side of your favorite bread.