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Cheshire Soup


Comfort soup times a thousand--a curious mix of soup and hot cereal enlivened by one of the all-time great English cheeses. Soft on the palate and eyes: white on white, with leeks, potatoes, and oatmeal, sparkled with grated carrots and pinked with cheese. It's really a honey. Serve hot to 8 for breakfast, lunch, pub fare, or a light supper.
Cheshire cheese: Likely popularized in the Roman garrison of Chester when soliders of the 20th Legion stuck pieces of local cheese from the Dee valley on the points of their short swords and toasted them over open fires. It's a mellow, crumbly cheese from cow's milk, with a hint of sharpness. Even the French recognize it, calling it le Chester and versifying: Dans le Chester sec et rose,/A longues dent l'Anglaise mord. (Into the Cheshire cheese, dry and pink,/The long teeth of the English sink.)

Garnish: paper-thin circles of leek

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Scrape in the potatoes and leeks, salt and pepper to taste, then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Scrape in the grated carrots and oatmeal, stir, then cover and simmer for 15 more minutes.

When ready to serve, stir in the cheese, cover to let melt for a few minutes, then stir and ladle into bowls. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of fresh leek circles.