I was very fortunate to meet Shauna and Daniel Ahern at the International Food Bloggers Conference in August. Shauna was on the Food Blogging For Specialized Diets panel along with Alexandra Jamieson and Daniel provided some beautiful gluten-free dishes for the Sunday lunch. Though I’ve read her blog for some time now, this was my first time to hear her speak, and her passion is immediately evident and inspiring. Like Shauna, my sister was diagnosed with celiac disease in her 30s after years of illness and made a total life change, never looking back. So yes, there is a special place in my heart for gluten-free cooking, though I really haven’t ventured into the baking side yet.
Shauna and Daniel’s new book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef is both cookbook and love story intertwined. As I read through it, I could feel their passion for food and how much it influences their lives. The combination of the heartfelt writing, earthy humor, and excellent food makes the book a winner for food lovers whether you need to follow a strict gluten-free diet or not.
The second recipe immediately caught my eye, a beautiful creamy potato-leek soup that calls for white truffle honey as an optional ingredient, and I clapped with glee because I just happened to have a jar of truffle honey waiting for the perfect dish.
The truffle honey was a generous gift from Kelly Cline, whom I met for the first time this year at IFBC. I’ve followed her for a couple years because her food styling and photography is beautiful with a dash of sass, a combination that really appeals to me. This soup was our first opportunity to taste the honey in a dish, and it led to a blind taste test with other honeys as Michael and I sampled them eyes closed and tried to identify each. The truffle honey has earthy overtones that balance the sweet, and I just love that the truffles were foraged. It truly was a very special gift. The boys were jumping up and down begging for a taste, and I marveled at how young they are to be enjoying something as decadent as truffle honey. They had no idea how special it was, they just liked the flavor.
The soup is pure autumn and winter comfort food, the kind that warms the belly and makes you want to snuggle up with a good book by the fire afterward. It’s also a good grow your own recipe, and all the herbs and garlic came from our garden, though we actually used more of each of the herbs because we love the flavors and aromas. We also couldn’t resist using some sweet and blue potato chips for the garnish, which added a satisfying salty crunch and beautiful color.
Everything about the book, from the jacket colors to the the beautiful photography by Lara Ferroni, is warm and inviting, making the reader feel like you’ve been asked into their home for an unforgettable meal. While you won’t find a stash of superfast food in here, the book has both everyday recipes as well as a good selection of recipes one might reserve for special occasions. There’s even a few recipes for hunters, such as the Rabbit with Mustard, Braised Balsamic Rabbit, and the Venison Osso Bucco with Blackberry-Port sauce, which has me longing for some venison when my father is done with his autumn hunting. The book is truly for food lovers; people who want to spend time in the kitchen and enjoy the thrill of making delicious food, and those who want to learn the love of cooking.
[Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.]
POTATO-LEEK SOUP WITH WHITE TRUFFLE HONEY
Adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern.
Serves 6 to 8.
large mixing bowl
8-quart stock pot
blender or immersion blender
4 leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise and chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and medium diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 pounds (1.36 k) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
kosher salt to taste
cracked black pepper
white truffle honey (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
homemade potato chips, for garnish (optional)
1. Place the chopped leeks in a bowl of cold water and allow them to sit for 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly, pat them dry, and chop roughly.
2. Set the stockpot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic to the hot oil and cook, stirring to ensure they do not burn, for 1 minute. Add the leeks and cook, stirring. When the onion and leeks are softened, toss in the rosemary, sage, and thyme. Cook until the herbs release their fragrance into the room, about 2 minutes. Tumble in the potatoes. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch.
3. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Cook until your pairing knife slides right through one of the potatoes, about 15 minutes. Do not overcook the potatoes or you will have watery soup. When the potatoes are done, stop whatever you are doing and puree the soup.
4. Puree the soup in the blender or with an immersion blender. Work in batches as necessary, pouring the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the blender while it is running. Press each batch through a fine-mesh sieve back into a large bowl. Repeat until all the soup is pureed and pour it back in the pot. (We used an immersion blender and blended right in the pot because I like to have a few chunks of potato in my soup.)
5. Add the cream to the soup and stir to blend. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in the cold butter. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
6. Ladle the soup into bowl and garnish each bowl with 1 teaspoon of the truffle honey (if using), the chives, and crushed potato chips (optional).