I’ve always wanted to take part in the Great Rare Books Bake Off and this year I seized my chance just in time for my favorite time of year: Soup Season. I knew I wanted a comfy soup that I could (hopefully) enjoy for a few nights while it’s been rainy and cold here in Tallahassee. Enter Mrs. Black’s Household Cookery and Laundry, published in the early 1900s, and originally gifted to Mary Black in 1904.
I chose this cookery because she had an entire section on soups! I also wanted to find a soup I could easily tweak the recipe on to make vegan or vegetarian. So when I stumbled onto page 14 and found a veggie soup I was excited!
I gathered all of my ingredients and settled into chopping them up very small. Though I cheated when I realized just how small of an amount 1 lb of potatoes is, and I bought a bag of these little ones, sold in 1 lb and already small enough that I only had to cut them in half.
The recipe calls for cooking the veggies down before adding any liquid, which I did for about 20 minutes on medium-high heat (I was worried about the heat getting too high and burning but you could probably set it a little higher and let it soften faster).
This is when I realized how much liquid is in 2 quarts. It’s 8 cups… which I knew but did not consider the volume when I chose my small pot. So I transferred all my goodness to a larger pot and added in 8 cups of water, and turned to mix up my milk and flour mixture to add in next.
This is why this mostly potato leek soup, is called a Windsor Milk soup (modern recipes seem to call it a White Windsor Soup). You make a thickener with milk and your choice of flour, arrowroot powder, sago, etc. You use 1 cup of milk to 2 tablespoons of flour. this is similar to a roux but instead of adding it to the bottom of the pan before the liquid, this soup calls for it to be added in slowly and brought up to a boil.
The next step I cheated on. The recipe calls for you to push your softened veggies and liquid through a fine mesh sieve. This breaks up the ingredients, pulls out the skins of the potatoes, and generally leaves you with a thin and creamy soup. After trying out pushing everything through a sieve – for the spirit of the task- I went the lazier route and used my sister’s emersion blender. You could also use a standard blender or food processor if you have one, just keep in mind that these methods will not remove larger pieces or the skins of the potatoes. If all else fails, a spoon and a mesh sieve will always do the job perfectly.
I had aspirations of cooking this over a fire since that’s what this older recipe calls for (mostly due to its age), and for the fun of it but decided a stovetop would be easier for a work night. Though I’m very curious about how the smokiness from the fire would change the taste. If you’re also curious and sans-fire you could possibly add a drop of liquid smoke to your recipe.
I found this soup to be to my liking but my sister and my niece thought it could use something. Luckily we had cheese on hand and stepped off the course of the recipe one last time. It was cozy and yummy and would pair beautifully with croutons. (I want to try it with gruyere cheese next!)
All in all my major substitutions were modern appliances for the tasks of cooking and breaking down the vegetables. Using plant-based milk makes this recipe vegan, and adding some bacon or making a small adjustment here or there could take this lovely soup and make it all your own! Just in time for soup season and a nice warm pick-me-up.