Soupe aux épinards crème à l’aïl

Spinach soup1

Spinach soup with garlic cream

This zingy, healthy soup makes a great start to an evening meal or a fine centerpiece at lunchtime, accompanied by open-faced sandwiches or a salad. The soup takes less than half an hour to prepare and can be made in advance, as can the garlic cream.

For best results, use very fresh spinach. For a richer taste, if you happen to have homemade chicken broth on hand, you can substitute that for the water. The quantities below will serve 3-4 people. For a larger crowd, double the recipe.

1 pound (450 g) fresh spinach
1 medium onion
1 medium potato
1 tbsp. olive oil

3 cups (3/4 liter) water
1 tsp. sea salt or table salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried tarragon

1/2 cup (100 ml) plus 4 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 clove garlic
bread for croutons

Sort through the spinach. Remove stems, discard any wilted leaves. Immerse the spinach in the bottom of your salad spinner. Rinse twice, then spin dry.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and cube the potato.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil to sizzling. Add the chopped onion. Sauté over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spatula, until the onion has wilted.

Add the spinach. Stir, lifting and turning the spinach over to ensure it doesn’t burn. You don’t need to add water, as the water clinging to the leaves from spinning will be sufficient to protect the spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted, about 5 minutes.

Now add the water and turn up the heat. Add the cubed potatoes. Add the salt, pepper and tarragon. When the soup comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.

Remove from heat and purée with a hand blender or counter-top blender. Transfer to a clean pot. Add 4 tbsp. cream. Stir to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Set aside until ready to serve.

Prepare the garlic cream (you can actually do this earlier while the soup is cooking): Pour the cream into a small bowl. If using crème fraîche, you may want to thin it with a teaspoon of milk. You are aiming for a honey-like consistency that is rather thick but will still slide off the end of a spoon. Peel the garlic and put it through a press into the cream. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve. Set aside.

Prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 210 C). Cut the bread into small cubes. Place in a pie tin. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Stir to cover evenly. Bake for 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Tip: Check frequently, as the croutons can brown quickly and risk burning, especially if the bread is dry.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently. Transfer to bowls. Drizzle with the garlic cream and top with croutons. Serves 3-4.

I owe my inspiration for the garlic cream to Mimi Thorisson, who writes a wonderful blog, Manger, from her home in Médoc, France.

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