Rachel Allen's Potato, Leek, and Smoked Bacon Soup

Lis Parsons

Potato and leek soup is one of those meals that every home cook should have in his or her repertoire. The soup is filling, cheap, easy to make, and almost always tastes more complex than its name implies. In Rachel's Irish Family Food, Rachel Allen adds even more complexity to the standard purée by building the soup base with smoky bacon. She also ups the allium quotient by adding a chopped onion to the mix, and finishes it all of with a bright swirl of parsley pesto. It is this pesto that really takes the soup to another level, adding herbaceousness and a bright green color—perfect for a St. Patrick's day meal.

Why I picked this recipe: Potato leek soup screams easy comfort food to me. Adding a swirl of parsley pesto makes the meal festive for St. Patrick's Day.

What worked: Between the smoky bacon base and bright parsley pesto finish, this soup is anything but an ordinary bowl of puréed potatoes.

What didn't: Allen does not specifically call for Irish back bacon in the recipe, but given the instructions to crisp the bacon over high heat in about 1 minute, it is clear that she isn't working with American-style belly bacon. If you can get your hands on back bacon, use it as directed. Otherwise, brown bacon slowly over medium heat until crisp and pour off a good bit of the rendered fat before preceding (I left in about 1 tablespoon).

Suggested tweaks: You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the pork.

Reprinted from Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 classic recipes from my home to yours by Rachel Allen. Copyright 2013. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 6 servings

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  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
  • 4 slices (rashers) bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) butter
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, trimmed and diced
  • 2 large potatoes (about 1 pound/450g in total), peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups (1.2L) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • Parsley Pesto
  • 1/2 ounce (15g) fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat, add the bacon, and sauté for about 1 minute, or until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

  2. Decrease the heat a little and add the butter to the oil in the pan. When it has melted, add the onion, leek, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes without browning. Pour in the stock and simmer gently for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through.

  3. Meanwhile, make the parsley pesto. Discard the stems from the parsley and put the leaves in a bowl with the garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil. Using a handheld blender, purée to a fairly smooth paste, adding a little more oil, if necessary, so that it is a thick but drizzling consistency. Alternatively, crush the parsley, garlic, and pine nuts using a mortar and pestle and stir in the Parmesan and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

  4. Purée the soup until smooth in a blender or using a handheld blender. Return to the pan and stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon pieces. Check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary, and heat for a minute more before serving.

  5. Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Drizzle over the parsley pesto and scatter the remaining bacon pieces on top.