mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

A Hearty Potato Soup

In Potatoes, Soup, Vegetables on April 5, 2007 at 9:07 pm


It is no longer hot-soup season in Delhi anymore. A rough draft of this post has been sitting all season. It is easily amongst my favourite soups and I have made it multiple times this past winter as well. There is just one problem – I have found it very hard to photograph.

Good picture or not, I am writing about this hearty winter soup so that those of you still in the cold can make a bowl and think of me. We are talking comfort food here.

If we talk comfort food, can potatoes be far behind? And this potato soup is a must try. It has a link to graduate school for me. There were some of us who would bring brown bags for lunch, usually leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. No better way to unwind from a good day at school than to cook yourself a good meal (after that cup of tea, of course). And if you are, as I was, separated from your family by a couple of continents and an ocean, a good meal is what you need. Not microwavable frozen pizza.

On most days we want to cook simple dishes that are easy to prepare, homely, yet satisfy the need for change. Exotic dishes that require slaving in the kitchen for hours cannot be part of graduate school. And my impatient nature explains my affinity for dishes that look deceptively complicated.

Most of my Grad-school mates were good cooks and great hosts. Someone amidst us was always hosting a dinner on the weekends. On Fridays a notice would appear on the two exit doors of our studio announcing the BYOB weekend dinner. I had up until then never cared for any kind of booze. But then most people in India (those days) drank whiskey and soda, rum, or Indian beer. As an undergrad, I had had enough late night parties in my Studio (it was a very liberal time!), away from the supervising eyes of parents, and yet never understood the big idea behind getting drunk. There must be one because young people continue to follow this tradition.

And it was not my middle-class upbringing holding me back either. I had seen my Dad enjoy his single malt Scotch and Soda on a regular basis, though naturally, my mother did not drink. If it was good enough for my Dad, it was good enough for me. But, though I loved to smell his drink, I did not like the taste. And therein lies the prime reason for me to imbibe anything – it has to taste good.

The first of those weekend parties I remember going to was at Mike’s. I was new to that country, and new to my friends. But Mike was the perfect host. “You don’t drink!” he exclaimed. I explained it was not that I had any religious taboos, just that I preferred lemonade over alcohol. He took that as a challenge and said he would fix me a drink I would find hard to put down. He knew what he was talking about. He used to work as a bartender.

I like coffee. Mike made a Kahlua Mudslide. The rest is history.

This was no ordinary Kahlua. He and his Dad make their own brand of home-made Kahlua. After tinkering with different alcohols and vanilla beans, they had arrived at a combination of vanilla beans and instant coffee powder with a base of Jack Daniels. Later, he was to introduce me to what is my favourite drink. Margaritas. With limes. On the rocks, not frozen.  Upon graduation, I received a bottle of Mike’s Kahlua.  I was mighty pleased. 🙂

That night Mike also served a crispy stir-fry that had water-chestnuts, and with the drinks there were fresh pumpkin seeds toasted in butter. (I can’t believe I remember – it was more than 10 years ago!).

potato soup

But I wanted to talk about Rodney Riffle’s potato soup. Okay. I was talking leftovers for lunch at Grad school. We would sometimes head to the cafeteria for lunching. A few would buy their lunch, and some of us would open our boxes. It was nice to walk away from the studio and eat sitting around a table. Like a regular family, you might say!

We would take a peek at each other’s lunches, taste from each other’s plates. On one of these lunches Rodney brought his potato soup. It was glorious. Next day he gave me the recipe, a photo-copied page that his mother had sent, a page from Southern Living. [Jan 2016: He and his mom own their own nuts-based business now! How wonderful!]

I have made major changes to the original recipe. First of all, the Indian in me could never bring myself to bake the potatoes in the oven for an hour (or more) when the pressure cooker does the job in a few minutes. There may be a difference in taste, but still you cannot take the Indian out of me! Imagine how much cooking I can get done in that fuel!! Second, the health conscious cook in me cannot put that amount of butter in anything, so I slashed it to a third. Here, I will admit, the butter must make a difference. So, if you are one of those people who work on your farm all day, do triple the amount of butter in this recipe. The rest of you, work harder to fry the flour in the much smaller amount of butter. The soup is still deliciously lip-smacking. Third, I have tried it with bacon, as per the original recipe, and without, since in the US I was living with my vegetarian sister for some time, and here in India, most of the rest of my family is vegetarian, bacon is hard to find (and suspect), and I just do prefer it vegetarian. If you want to use bacon, just cook and crumble it, and divide it into the bowls, saving some for the garnish.


Instead of the bacon, I prefer to add some celery to the soup. I like everything about the celery: the crunchy texture and the flavour it adds to this soup. The celery is from my garden. It has grown much since I used it last month. Tonight it is going into my tomato soup, stalks, leaves and all, a much lighter soup for present weather.

Do not let the un-photogenic soup fool you. This is a sure winner. It is great with buttered home-baked rolls (using my basic whole wheat bread recipe) fresh from the oven, and a salad of tomatoes.

potato soup

Potato Soup

4 large potatoes
¼ -2/3 C butter
1/2 C all purpose flour
8 C milk (I use 3%)
½ t (or more) freshly ground pepper
4 spring onions, chopped
½ C (or more) celery, chopped
½ C celery leaves, chopped
1 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ C yoghurt (or sour cream)

Bake or pressure cook potatoes till done. Peel and pulp.

Melt butter over low heat in a heavy pan. Add flour, stirring constantly, till cooked. If you have never done this before, you may want to use more butter. Cooking the flour will take longer and a more careful watch if using less butter. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. There may be some lumps, but do not worry. Just smoosh them with the back of your spoon. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the soup thickens and bubbles.

Add the potato pulp, salt, pepper, chopped celery, green onions, and most of the cheese. Cook until heated thoroughly. Turn heat off and add the yoghurt or sour cream. Thin with more milk if required. Serve garnished with some of the reserved onions, celery leaves, and cheese.

Variation: Instead of celery, use a cup or two of chopped fresh spinach towards the end of the cooking time. Cook till the spinach is wilted. You may also add a little garlic to the butter in the first step.


  1. Love soup in every form. And this one’s in a white sauce base. What’s not to like. Un-photogenic? what?

  2. Hey Anita-
    Nice tater soup dere hey! And you even make a roux! Celery is an intersting vegetable/herb isn’t it? I’m very mindful in which dishes I include as it contains an essential oil, and therefore is not the most neutral of vegetables, but I do like it and use it for chicken soup with dumplings- my mother did this, so for me it is a must! Don’t worry, I really will make this…perhaps even today, as our unusually warm spring weather of last week has mutated into an damp/icy chill, and indeed a bowlful would be most welcome!
    Kahlua mudslides eh? Am I understanding correctly then that you were pardoned from sampling the undergrad Wapatuli? 🙂

    The undergrad thing was optional, at least for the girls. An Indian middle-class value-thing. I guess I was not one for peer pressure, though there were some girl social smokers in my class. Even that was lost on me! I was offered gin and lime, sorry didn’t like it. I loved the lime cordial with soda so much more! I think I like the ‘sweet’ in my drink…so the Ginger Ale is good!

    Try the soup and let me know. Potatoes, onions, butter, milk,and cheese,and salt and pepper – what is to not like! I was so sure Manisha would make it…without milk?!

  3. I forgot the “it” plus a comma after “include”…

  4. I love the smell of roux. Mmmm! I’ll have to make this with broth instead of milk. Don’t want the house to explode. 😀

    A mudslide used to be my favorite drink, too. I skipped the milk though because we don’t want the house to explode, remember? And there is already cream in the Irish cream. Besides, who wants it diluted with all that milk.

    That’s why potatoes come before ice cream for you!

  5. Oh and Pel needs to get some negative points for punctuation errors as well as grammatical mistakes. 😎

  6. Manisha-
    Is that an electric guitar I hear playing in the background? Oh…[stoops down] and here, you dropped your onion ring. [places it on her head]

  7. Now, now kids, play nice.
    Anita,mudslide? margaritas? on the rocks!?
    tsk, tsk..And here I thought I was surrounded by all sants and one sadhu 😉

    Mudslide is what – ice cream, half and half, and Kahlua. Sinful but, Sadhus are known to indulge more!

  8. Hey Anita,

    This is really a comfort food…..with celery, its just the perfect thig to enjoy with a nice sourdough roll or a foccacia. Umm, melt in your mouth goodness…..

    Ah, the onion rings and guitar have replaced the halo and the harp 😉

  9. Anita,
    This is such a nice & easy recipe… I am going to make it soon. Do you use cilantro at all in this soup? I thought the first pic was of cilantro .. or was it?I am not sure now..
    Anyway, the pics are great … but you already knew that! Your blog has so many unique recipes.I have bookmarked this site & am going to try out a few recipes from here.

    No cilantro. That is celery leaf! Isn’t my celery the brightest green you’ve seen? Garden fresh!
    I am glad to know you think the pics were okay – they are from three different times!

  10. anita, it looks great. i know what you mean about photographing white stuff. my istu pic was a real struggle.

    i make a similar soup with potato and leeks. i can guess yours tastes similar – true comfort food. an e-mail coming your way.

    Potatoes work so well with onion-y things – such as leeks. Combined with all the other things, it is a bowl of comfort!

  11. Anita,
    You sure had fun in your college days…have read so many recipes for a potato soup but never made one…that too with home baked rolls, Im sure you had all your family kissing your hands for that homemade meal…Can I grow celery in a pot? I don’t have a garden now, not for the next 2 years atleast, only pots. Tips please!

    Yes, thankfully everyone likes this soup. And who can say no to bread still warm from the oven! Just the smell of bread baking is enough to make you hungry.

    Absolutely, you can grow celery in pots. In fact, in addition to plating it in beds, I also have them in a long tub-like pot, spaced at 10-12″. I also have mint in a pot which is how you should grow it, even if you have a garden!

    I grew celery from seeds that I planted in Oct-Nov, but maybe for Bombay, anytime is planting time?

  12. Thats one comfort food I always indulge in!!!!!! Minus the celery though….. so that should go in next time 🙂

    Celery, or even spinach, is a good addition to this soup.

  13. Oh….yes, I must agree that mints are best grown in pots! Even still, some of them you have to keep a close eye on so they don’t get out of the pot! Sneaky things…
    Nandita, you can always have a garden made entirely out of pots…:-)

  14. Loved reading your gardening tips. Thanks a ton. I usually would grow mint in small pots/gamlas. Never grown celery at home though…..not that much space either in this apartment. Just enough for some cilantro and mint :-D.

    BTW, made veggie burgers with your recipe tonight :). They were good! i normally make them with tofu, but your recipe provided the much needed potato twist :).

    Total delight, that one!

    As the solar access has much reduced over the years, my planting bed has gotten bigger! I have a couple of arbi plants keeping the celery company. It’s time to chop them and bring inside. Enough for patal bhaji but not wadis. 😦

    The veggie burgers are very popular with my family as well.

  15. i struggle with photos sometimes too and my recent dish is an example of that. your soup i am sure is delicious as potato is my favourite and i don’t think itt ever fails. i will try it.

  16. Anita- have you tried gin and grapefruit juice or soda? It’s a bit like a junipery margarita…:-D Blue potatoes?

    Nope, haven’t. Blue potatoes I have. Blue potato chips were served on one of the domestic flights I took within the US last year, the Airline name is Blue or something related to blue I think! Weird looking (for us), but good.

  17. Hi Anita,

    I tried this soup and it came out great. Truly comforting food. I am guilty of a slight deviation though. I added some horseradish that had been lying around in my refrigerator.(Just the homemaker in me – not to let anything go waste). It adds a slight tangy touch that was liked by all at home.

    Hi, Shalini! Good to know you check back now and then.

    And which cook doesn’t want to tweek a recipe a little bit? So we have another great variation!

  18. Anita, ice-cream in mudlside? No! Mudslide is vodka, cream (which I skip – double the vodka, D!), Irish cream (double that, too!) and Kahlua. Some recipes top it off with milk or more cream.

    Pel, that onion ring was rather good. Next time, please fry it in coconut oil. I will get hot oil treatment, too.

    Gin and tonic is good! It had become the only drink I could tolerate before I gave it up completely, only to relapse once every month or so. I told D about Sig’s lychee margarita so he got 2 doz bottles of Mazaa’s lychee juice. 🙄 Nothing ever in moderation for this guy. It’s either overboard or nothing at all. I need to go buy some margarita glasses later this evening.

    We go egg-hunting tomorrow morning in the brrrr cold. It’s been sprinkling here with some flakes mixed in. This is our second Easter here and last year the egg hunt was cold, too.

    Oh soup! Yes, soup! We had soup for dinner last night. Campbell’s tomato soup. Very easy to make. And we had organic spinach-cheese ravioli, very easy to boil and serve with Bertolli’s Alfredo sauce. Easy clean-up, too. I must admit that I actually went to the garage to bring in some potatoes – they store best in the cold is what I have found. My onions last longer there, too. But I was sooooo tired that it was easier to just open cans.

    But I will surely make this soup this weekend. 😀 Nice recipe. Nice picture. Seriously, I will. But even 5 C of milk will be too much. For that matter a half cup with cereal is enough to make me miserable through the day. I usually have cereal with yogurt and fruit preserve. I could use soy milk, I guess, but I prefer to drink that and have never had it in soup.

    Mike said Mudslide — so maybe the ice cream was just a bonus. Or not there. Who cares, I don’t remember maybe 😉 Look who can’t speak right even before she’s had a glass! I was going to say Margaritas – always lime, on the rocks. Not frozen. But you were talking something else…Girl, you’re getting a lot of Martinis tonight!

    Yes, we would like to talk soup. 😀

    But…if you can’t have half cup of milk…who ate the three bowls of paal payasam? Goldilocks? 😆

    I’m liking the new emoticons you are introducing everyday! This one rolls!! 🙂 Another plus for WordPress!!

  19. Ugh, I have margarita on my mind when I mean martini. M-A-R-T-I-N-I.

  20. “Patal Bhaji”, “wadis”

    Looking forward to your recipes 😀

    Patal Bhjai is something i crave for…..never found any good quality pattas here!

    You’re just too much, Musical! Is there anything that you have not had?!! You amaze me! I had never heard of Pathl bhaji, or that arbi leaves even existed, before I got married!

  21. Didn’t you see the size of those katoris? They were small. They have to be small for more reasons than just lactose intolerance. That payasam is rich! It’s full fat milk *and* heavy cream. We ate it over two weeks and it’s settled all on my hips and tummy. Medha told me just this week that I was looking really fat again. 😡 So kheer is postponed yet again.

    In which case, kheer suits you better! 😀

  22. M-A-N-I-S-H-A, saying what you mean is not the same as meaning what you say; contrariwise, fetching potatoes and onions in from a cold garage should be given the highest of applause because that is furthur into the recipe than he-who-is-writing managed to accomplish, but tomorrow is another day, and, after a LEMON CHEESECAKE is produced(for bunny-day feasting), duly will I fetch potatoes up from my basement and procede with commencement of said recipe.
    However, with all due respect to Anita, I’ve been pondering the use of yoghurt in the stead of milk, as I have hopes of producing a kadhi hybrid, which I might suggest to you to partake of to alleviate any symptoms of said payassam consumption…as well as to avoid any furthur disruption of normal activity…
    XXOO- The 3 Bears

    P.S. We have locked the coconut oil, aamla paste, and milk in the liquor cabinet until we get back home.

  23. Hmmm, once upon a time (yesterday), I actually understood what he was talking about……

  24. To the 3 Bears: you won’t have a choice but to use yogurt to make this soup because that’s what the milk be when you get back from your jaunt in the forest. 😆

    Getting dem taters from the garage is not as painful as the basement. I got the brilliant idea of storing them in the garage after we visited a root cellar at an 1890s working ranch. Basement is a p-a-i-n. More so since Medha has learned to say no. 😯

    I lurve cheesecakes but the rest of the family does not agree. Bah!

    Vee, he’s high on the stuff he locks away in his liquor cabinet. Coconut oil. And when the bears get back, that cabinet will smell like Raju Plumber…

    I bow to you Manisha…on the emoticons…(as I take copious notes on the html) They are so animated about this soup!

  25. Oh….have a martini…and some fresh milk on the side! 😉

    That’s too bad they don’t like cheesecake; one of the greatest pleasures I must say. Especially chocolate!

    No, No, Pel. Lemon cheesecake is the best!

  26. I really do need a trip to the forest this weekend… 🙂

  27. “Is there anything that you have not had?!!”

    Plenty 😀

    I got familiar with Arbi leaves through Gujarati cuisine. My Mom was brought up in Gujarat. And then i lived in Bangalore for quite sometime, during my Ph.D. (South Kanara cuisine has this delish dish called patrode) and now i have a Marathi friend (Pathal Bhaji)…..

    I am better described as CHATORI 😀

    You’re that! But it is a good thing!

  28. <kaku-bai tone>Sorry, ha, but patal is something I do not associate with bhaji. Especially with a child who calls out to me almost daily…but never mind, carry on!</kaku-bai tone>

    What? You don’t like it? Alu patal bhaji is sooo good! And so much better than palak patal bhaji. Medha is asking for you ot the child in you? 🙂

  29. Chatori…?? hmmmm…chaat + katori= licker of bowls?

    This is a real word, no Carroll made-up word. But you’re onthe right track! Chatori is one who licks everything clean, has a varied palate, mostly things spicey (from ‘chaat’ the spicey street snack, as well as the verb ‘chaat’- to lick! But you cannot be ‘chatori’ – you’ll have to be ‘chatoraa’! In Hindi, there is a clear distinction in addressing the feminine and the masculine genders… 😉

  30. Aai ga!

    I love patal bhaji. Esp aLu. It’s colocasia, no? But patal also means loose. And can be used to describe certain bodily functions that are best not discussed on a food blog.

    In fact, I was relating this patal bhaji incident to D. And he said: Patal Bhaji? What is that? I only know patal ***-***

    Each of those words depicted by *** can be replaced with a certain pronoun used to describe a person of the gender feminous beautificus. Except that when put together in that fashion, they mean something not so enticing and quite odorifous in nature.


    Okay, you are talking ‘kadi’! Non-Marathis, do not confuse with ‘kadhi’. 😆

    Look at her blush!

  31. Pel, I am with you – also wondering wondering what this chatori is. 😆

    Foodies, in other words.

  32. patal…kadi…lovely just lovely. I’m so glad I just finished like…er…women of the red light district?

    Speaking of colocasia leaves, I’ve been looking at recipes for patrode…ever since the bharleli mirchi recipe I’ve been getting just awful cravings for vegetable with besan things…


    Worse…But since you’ve eaten – ‘(check mail)’!

    Patrode – I have a very good recipe…not enough leaves though. I almost made them with Nasturtium leaves, they were quite large and so many of them!! I should have.

  33. ooops…apparantly the Konkanis prefer a stuffing of coconut, rice, moong dhal……patra bajia- the Gujerati kind, unless there is a Marathi version as well?

  34. I read somewhere on one of the blogs that collard greens work well- they are sturdy enough.

  35. Weird! Sorry for hogging space here…I actually know the colocasia plant very well…it’s used for landscaping all over the place here! “Elephant ear” it is called…well! the things you learn in a day! Plus the tuber is available everywhere…”taro”… that’s pretty easy to grow! 🙂

    Yup. I see it mentioned in ‘tub-gardens’ all the time! In the village/countryside in India, people plant it along the swales/drains that convey kitchen/bath water to the garden. And taro loves wet feet and proliferates like mad.

  36. “Patrode, have a very good recipe”

    May the arbi in your graden grow fresh and green and may we all get to have the pleasure of reading that recipe soon! Amen 😀

  37. Merci Musique! I hope so… Anita, nasturtium leaves sound good- aren’t the flower buds used to make capers?
    Has anyone ever tried Middle-eastern dolmas? There are different kinds, but the most common are made of grape leaves(stuffed with rice, etc).

    I’ll try it next year – all winter flowers have been cleared…don’t know about capers…never had any pickled flower buds. But, yes, the nasturtium flowers are edible and I have used them to pretty up a salad sometimes.

    No haven’t made dolmas ever…read about them…Grape leaves of any kind of grape work?

  38. photogenic or not, since u have already made the necessary changes to it, i would take ur soup adverbatim.cheers.

    I hope that is a good thing to do, to take it ‘adverbatim’? :-/

  39. I believe that’s Latin for “Dining naked with your husband in your back-yard at midnight under the full moon after several rum-and-gingers…” See, the soup is white so it’d be easy to find…

    That doesn’t sound bad…but whether do-able or not, is something entirely different. 🙂

  40. Seemed pretty quiet around here…I guess not! Still time for the full moon. I want to camp out in my yard on a clear night and not put the top canopy cover on. It’s like sleeping under the stars then! So we can do white soup with rum and ginger under the full moon. But that’s about it. 😐

  41. Oh…you two! Come on now….life is short! Just send the chitlins away for a day or two, get the hubbies a bit tipsy and away you go!!! I don’t know why, but I have a strong feeling the two of you can hold your liquor…of course, I should talk: I’m half-way through a toro bravo as we speak! I just need to find a full moon, a back yard and a…well, nothing permanent you understand…just ’til morning…or noon or so…I’d settle for 15 minutes. Then I have other things to do…[takes a sip]…like my next post…laundry.

    Toro bravo…?

  42. Dear Anita,
    Great recipe. With the goodness of milk and curd and potatoes too! The soup does look very hearty and filling. I love this with whole grain bread – and celery is a great herb to use in any soup. The image is excellent!

  43. hi…
    the soup looks excellent…im new to your blog and im a student also, so i liked ur grad skool story :P…
    i have a question:
    im lactose intolerant and there is 8 cups of milk in the recipe…im ok with the other dairy but thats too much milk for my poor could u suggest a replacement for it? id be grateful.

  44. […] anyway, it was good weather for potato soup, which is what we ate for dinner last […]

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