Honey, would your friend like to stay for dinner tonight?
Maybe...but first, she wants to know what you're making.
My daughter's friends know me well. I'm like a mad scientist in the lab brewing up exotic foodstuffs, testing recipes on the willing (or unaware) and sneaking in a bit of caramelized onion or a little gorgonzola into their powdery, processed, instant mac & cheese.
I pause for a moment to think about how I'm going to answer her tonight.
The fact is I'm making "Brotchan Foltchep", an ancient recipe for leek and oatmeal soup. But I know if I blurt out that name, it will strike fear and panic into their young hearts and my taste-testers will flee for the pantry in search of a can of Spaghetti O's.
I'm just making some soup. And it's delicious. There is just some onions and butter and chicken broth in it. Nothing scary. I promise.
I served their "Brotchan Flotchep" (which means leek broth, but is also referred to as "the king's soup") in small, pretty, floral teacups to add to the innocence of this rather odd, though totally harmless, soup.
Here it is. Just take a taste. One spoonful. You don't even have to finish it. Just try a little.
And try they did. It was a heavenly soup. Soul renewing and heart warming. Big pieces of tender leeks, creamy, soft, delicate. And the girls loved it. They had seconds and thirds.
Finally, I came clean on the origins and ingredients of the concoction.
"Brotchan Foltchep" was a favorite dish of one of Ireland's spiritual and literary icons, St Columbkille who lived in the 6th century. Columb means "dove" in Gaelic and kille means "church". There's oatmeal in it to add heartiness and thicken the soup a bit. According to "The Country Cooking of Ireland" by Coleman Andrews, this is possibly one of the oldest Irish recipe that we can actually reconstruct!"
And then, as I finished my food history lecture with a wave of my spoon, the girls smiled, nodded and dismissed me by slowly closing the door of her bedroom, leaving me to return to the kitchen glowing with success.
And as for Mr. Sutter, he finished his bowl of "Brotchan Foltchep" and declared it quite tasty. But he still doesn't know there was oatmeal in it : )
2 T. butter
6 leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced into 3/4" pieces
5 cups of chicken stock and whole milk, mixed
1/2 cup pinhead (steel-cut) oatmeal
1/2 tsp. ground mace (or nutmeg)
salt and pepper to taste
half & half for garnish (optional)
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and sauté over gentle heat until softened slightly.
Add the stock and milk and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the oatmeal.
Add the mace and season to taste.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the oatmeal is cooked and the flavors have melded.
Serve in bowls with a little cream swirled in, if desired, and who doesn't desire that?
(This recipe is a combination from both "Irish Food & Cooking" by Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell and "The Country Cooking of Ireland" by Coleman Andrews)