This is part of the ongoing Das Tor series “Global Eats,” in which T-birds share cooking stories and recipes unique to their culture or travels around the globe.
Want a cozy soup for a cold January night? The Basque classic “porrusalda” (Basque leek and potato soup) is the perfect fit.
In the Spanish Basque country, the coming of winter is heralded by the appearance of leeks and pumpkins in the fruterías (local stores that sell fruit and vegetables). As the leaves change and the nights grow colder, it’s common to see a massive cooking pumpkin take up its place of honor behind the register at the frutería. Customers can step up and ask to purchase a slice, and the store owner will take a large, sharp knife to cut off a fresh piece for the customer. Swinging by the frutería to buy a slice of fresh pumpkin and a bunch of leeks to make porrusalda is a common tradition in the Basque country.
Until recently, I lived outside the city of Bilbao, Spain, which is known for its rainy winter season. Winter brings strong winds and weeks of seemingly endless rain that challenge your commitment to getting outside. It wasn’t uncommon for me and my friends, desperate for some fresh air after days of endless rain, to go out walking with umbrellas and come back completely soaked, chilled but invigorated. On the way back to my apartment after walking, I’d stop by the frutería to pick up some fresh pumpkin and leeks to make porrusalda. Back at home, I’d stick on some soft piano music, listen to the wind and rain beating against my windows, and revel in the simple pleasure of a cozy kitchen rich with the smell and taste of a warm bowl of soup.
Regardless of whether you’re in the rainy Basque country or in any other part of the world, a steaming hot bowl of porrusalda is a great way to beat the winter cold and enjoy a little taste of the Basque country in the process.
Makes 4-6 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 small white potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into large cubes
- 4-6 leeks, green parts removed and chopped (around 5 cups)
- Water or vegetable broth
- Salt to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pan over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add diced onion and sauté until translucent.
- When the onion is translucent, add the minced garlic and leeks. Sauté until the leeks soften. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add more olive oil.
- Add the pumpkin and potato to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes (3-5) more.
- Add enough water or vegetable broth to just cover the mixture.
- Cover and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until potato, pumpkin, and leeks fall apart and the mixture thickens significantly (approximately 3-4 hours). Mash the mixture with the back of your spoon to thicken it as the soup cooks.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve with fresh crusty bread, preferably purchased at your local panadería in the Basque country!
Note 1: Locals also love to add in bacalao, a fish that is sourced locally from the Bay of Biscay in the province of Vizcaya. I’m a vegetarian, so I’ve left that out, but feel free to experiment. There are many different versions of porrusalda, so enjoy finding the one you love best.
Note 2: If you can’t find fresh pumpkin, you can leave it out and proceed with the recipe as written with the rest of the ingredients. Add two additional diced potatoes in place of the pumpkin.