Creamy Potato, Leek & Bacon Soup

I love going to the local farmer’s market and getting some inspiration from the beautiful fresh produce. Unfortunately, the farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays. If I can’t get my hands on the local produce at the farmer’s market I visit a fruit and veg. store run by a closely-knit family. And their imperfectly perfect fruit and vegetables definitely excite me. This time, my eyes were drawn to the large, still quite dirty leeks that were bunched together with a brown string. It was so attractive, how could I resist! And what better combination than leeks and potatoes!

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There is something really great about a creamy potato & leek soup. If you have not tried making your own, it really is worth the (little) effort. But, add bacon and you pretty much have the best ever recipe, plus your fussy’ I-hate-vegetables’ eater will also like this one! Who doesn’t like bacon? And if you know someone who doesn’t like bacon, please ask them what is wrong with them and from which planet are they? I would be a complete mess without bacon.

There is one thing that is a little tricky when it comes to making potato and leek soup – the leeks should absolutely be grit free. I am sure you have all tasted spinach with grit in – it feels like there is a sandstorm in your mouth. It really is horrible. Leeks are like celery stalks, spring onions and spinach – the need a little attention when it comes to cleaning them. Here are the steps in cleaning your leeks:

  • Cut the root end off, as well as the darker leaves. Normally only the lighter part of the leek is used.
  • If the leek is really large or long, it might be easier to cut it in half first. Slice the leek lengthwise.
  • Run a small stream of water through the leeks. The grit will fall out. You can also sort of page through the leek, making sure the water flows through all of the skins until you can’t see any more grit. Especially check the root part where the leek would have grown in soil.
  • You can also roughly rinse the leeks, cut them and then place them in a large bowl of water. You can mix them with your hands. The grit will fall to the bottom. Scoop the leeks from the water.
  • Your leeks are now ready to be used.

Leeks on Scale FB

Leeks Sliced FB

Using a potato cultivar that has more floury characteristics (lower moisture content) is great for mashing and will thus be great for this recipe. Examples of floury potatoes include Up-to-Date, Darius, Avalanche, and Caren. If you cannot find any of those, you can use a potato that has a combination of floury and waxy characteristics. Examples of these include BP1, Valor, Fianna, VDP, Lanorma or Sifra. Waxy potatoes have a high moisture content and retain their shape very well when they are cooked. These potatoes are not ideal for mashing, but rather for recipes where the potato needs to retain its shape. Examples of these include Mondial, BP13, and Fabula.

Half of the salt used in this recipe is smoked salt. It really is a great investment and enhances the flavour of so many of dishes I make. If you see it at the supermarket, do yourself a favour and buy some for yourself and for your best friend!

I used the skins of the potatoes to make a crispy garnish for the soup. The skins were left to dry out a little bit and were deep-fried in a combination of sunflower oil and bacon fat that was rendered some time ago and stored in the fridge. I sprinkled some salt over the deep-fried potato skins once they were removed from the oil. I put a few potato skins on the soup with a dollop of sour cream and then something green – I recommend using a sprig of rosemary. You can also make your own bacon powder and use it as garnish.

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Deepfried Potato Skins

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Cream Potato, Leek & Bacon Soup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Make 1 Big Pot (enough to feed a large family or a couple could eat this for a few meals)


  • 1 Packet of Bacon (whichever you prefer will be fine)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • ± 600g Cleaned Leeks
  • ± 1kg Potatoes
  • 1 Stock Pot (I used beef, but chicken will also be fine)
  • ½ Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • ½ Teaspoon Mustard Powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary / 2 Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
  • Pepper to Taste
  • Salt to Taste (half normal salt and half smoked salt is a winning combination)
  • ½ Cup Cream
  • 100ml Milk


  1. Dice the bacon into little bits if you did not buy bacon bits. I find it easier to cut the bacon with a pair of sharps scissors.
  2. Brown the bacon bits in a pot on medium to high heat, or in you slow cooker using the ‘browning’ setting. If you are using lean bacon or back bacon, I recommend putting a splash of olive oil in the pot before you add the bacon. There is no need for additional oil if your bacon has a lot of fat on. Stir the pot every now and then to avoid the bacon burning.
  3. While the bacon browns, chop the onion into medium dice.
  4. Add the onion once the bacon has a brown colour to it. You can now turn down the heat or use the ‘sauté’ setting on your pressure cooker. Stir the pot every two minutes to avoid burning the onions.
  5. While the onion is busy cooking, cut the leeks into ½ - 1 cm slices and add it to the pot. Remember to stir it every few minutes.
  6. Peel the potatoes, keeping the skins in a separate bowl.
  7. Rinse the potatoes and cut them into ± 2cm squares. It does not need to be perfect.
  8. Once all of the potatoes are cut, add them to the pot.
  9. Fill the pot with water until the potatoes are just covered.
  10. Add all of the herbs and spices and stir through.
  11. If you are using the stove, put the lid on and reduce the heat to a lower setting. Cook until the potatoes are soft. If you are using a pressure cooker, put the lid on a cook the mixture for 20 minutes on high pressure.
  12. Once the potatoes are soft, take an emulsion blender and blend the mixture until there are no lumps.
  13. Add the cream and the milk and stir until it is well combined. If the soup is still too thick you can add more milk until it has reached the desired consistency.
  14. Please remember to taste the soup and add more salt and pepper should it need some.
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Easy, No-Bake Cheesecake

Who doesn’t love a good cheesecake? Who doesn’t love an easy-to-prepare, good cheesecake even more?

This is a wonderfully straightforward recipe that you can follow to make a winner cheesecake. All it takes is a few minutes. The bonus is that there is no baking involved, so the preparation time is so short.

Now, I’m not saying that a no-bake cheesecake is better than a baked cheesecake. They are simply different – unique and lovely in their own ways.

I think the simplest crust that an amateur baker can start with is a cookie crumb pie crust. It is definitely less stressful to make than a short crust pie shell. The salty cookie crumb crust perfectly balances the sweet and somewhat tart filling.

I used 15cm loose bottom tart pans – this is the only way to remove the tart from the pan. The trick to removing the outer pan is to carefully place the tart in its pan over a glass. The bottom will stay on the glass and the sides can gently slide off.

The filling can either be piped into the crust(s) or for a more rustic looking cheesecake, you can use a spoon to gently even out the filling.

You can decorate this cheesecake with any fresh fruit. You can also make a chocolate ganache topping, some kind of berry sauce, or a salted caramel sauce. A peanut butter sauce would also work well. The options are endless!

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Easy No-Bake Cheesecake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 1 x large 25cm tart or 4 x smaller 15cm tarts

For a lighter cheesecake, half of the cream cheese can be replaced with smooth full-fat cottage cheese.


    For the Crust:
  • 1 Packet of Tennis Biscuits (200g)
  • 120g Butter
  • 15ml Caster Sugar (optional)
    For the Filling:
  • 2 Tubs of Cream Cheese (230g each; room temperature)
  • 10ml Vanilla Essence or Vanilla Extract
  • 100ml Caster Sugar
  • 1 Cup Cream
  • Juice of 1 Large Lemon
  • 10ml Powdered Gelatine


    For the Crust:
  1. Crush the biscuits in a food processor by using a rolling pin until fine crumbs are formed.
  2. Melt the butter in the microwave.
  3. Pour the butter over the crumbs and mix until well combined and without clumps.
  4. If you are making smaller tarts, equally divide the biscuit base between the 4 tart pans.
  5. By using your hands, press the biscuit mixture against the bottom and the walls of the tart pans.
  6. Refrigerate the base(s) until you use them later.
    For the Filling:
  1. Bloom the gelatine in a small microwave-safe container by adding 4 teaspoons (20ml) of water to the gelatine. Let the gelatine stand for a few minutes until all of the water has been absorbed. Melt the hydrated gelatine in the microwave until the gelatine is completely liquid. Let it stand until it reaches room temperature. In the meantime, you can make the cheesecake filling.
  2. By using an electric beater, mix the cream cheese, vanilla essence, and caster sugar until it is smooth. Make sure you wipe down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Add the cream and lemon juice and continue whipping until the mixture builds up some volume and there are no lumps. The mixture should be stiff.
  4. When the gelatine has reached room temperature, slowly add it to the cheesecake mixture, whilst mixing.
  5. Once all of the gelatine has been incorporated, the filling is ready to be added to the tart shells.
  6. Transfer the filling to the tart shell(s). Smooth out the top.
  7. Pop the cheesecake(s) into the fridge while you decide on the topping.
  8. I used some fruit that I carefully placed on top.
  9. The cheesecake can be prepared a day in advance – the cookie crumb crust might not be as crumbly as the first day (it would have firmed up a bit). The filling itself would have also firmed up, but still has a light texture to it. If you are preparing the cheesecake a day in advance, only put the fruit on the cheesecake just before serving.
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Pumpkin Panna Cotta

My love for panna cotta started when we had to make panna cotta at one of our practical classes at university.

Don’t you wish you could eat more panna cotta? Panna cotta is a good as dessert gets! Unfortunately, we hardly ever see it on menus (or maybe I just don’t eat out too often & at the right restaurants?). The other problem I have with trying something I have not eaten at a specific restaurant (in other words – the UNKNOWN) is that I am often disappointed. We went to an Italian restaurant recently and to my surprise there was panna cotta on the dessert menu. Obviously I had to give it a try. I must say the texture was great – it was really smooth, delicate and extremely light and it had that wobble to it, but the flavour was disappointing and dull. So once again, it left me feeling dissapointed.

If you are Afrikaans, most of you probably grew up with ‘flamby’ desserts – the instant crème caramel / flan packs that your mom used to make. She even had the little ‘flamby’ sets especially for this instant dessert that we all loved. Random fact: ‘Flamby’ is actually a French trademark product name owned by Nestlé and Lactalis. It is the name for a caramel custard dessert that is packaged and sold in little plastic ‘pots’.  The correct word is actually ‘Flanby’.

At the restaurant one of the guests at our table asked me what panna cotta was and I had to explain it to him. When my panna cotta dessert arrived, he said: “Oh, it’s a flamby!” And I just had to laugh and sort of agree! Créme caramel is made of an egg custard that has been poured over a caramel sauce and is then cooked in a bain marie in an oven. As you unmold the créme caramel, the caramel has melted and now serves as a sauce for the baked custard. The egg serves as a thickening agent in crème caramel and sets it. Panna cotta does not have any eggs in, but relies on the gelatine to set the mixture in the fridge. A sauce for panna cotta is only added after the dessert has been unmolded.

Too much information for one day? 🙂  Okay, let’s get back to the point.

The question remained: Why have I not made my own panna cotta at home?

I don’t know why I have never attempted this simple dish ever again after university. Being autumn and all, I thought it would work well to incorporate the autumn flavours into this dessert.

A lot of times cooks are scared to work with gelatine & I can guarantee you there is no need to feel this way – it all comes down to knowing the basics about gelatine. Here are some tips:

  • In South Africa we hardly get leaf gelatine or gelatine sheets, so we normally use powdered gelatine & to tell you the truth I prefer working with powdered gelatine. Powdered gelatine is easily available at most grocery shops. You can even buy larger quantities of gelatine at baking shops.
  • You need to ‘bloom’ powdered gelatine. Blooming is a very important step in ensuring your gelatine is properly incorporated into your mixture and ensuring that your end product does not separate.
  • You can bloom gelatine in almost any liquid, not just water. The liquid always has to be room temperature or colder. NEVER hot liquid.
  • To bloom gelatine, the ratio is more or less 1 part gelatine : 2 parts liquid. Pour the liquid into a small bowl (like a ramekin) and pour the gelatine over it. The gelatine will absorb the liquid and swell, but still keeping its granules. You need to melt the gelatine either in a water bath on the stove or in the microwave. Using the microwave is way easier and quick.
  • Be careful not to let the gelatine boil. If gelatine boils it loses structural integrity and it might not set. Once all of the granules are melted, remove from the heat, or stop the microwave and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • If it starts to harden before you are ready to add it to your mixture, you can just reheat it.
  • Do not add hot gelatine to cold mixes. You can, however, add the hot melted gelatine straight to hot mixtures.
  • It is best to add gelatine to a recipe as one of the very last steps as it will start working quite quickly if the mixture is quite cold.

Once you see how it easy it really is to prepare panna cotta, you will make it at home all the time! Once again, feel free to experiment with flavours and combinations.

I must say that this is not the lightest or smoothest panna cotta I have ever tasted. It has pumpkin in after all, so immediately your brain should tell you that it cannot be as light as a mere honey or vanilla panna cotta, but there are a few tips to make the pumpkin as smooth as possible (please read recipe for tips). In this panna cotta’s defence I must say that it has the wobble to it and is very flavourful with all the right spices – a perfect autumn dessert.

I have made a simple rooibos syrup to serve with the panna cotta. I have also added a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  The sauce is really sweet, so make sure that it is not too thick and make sure you only pour a very, very thin layer thereof.

You can make panna cotta in ramekins, dariole moulds, or if you don’t mind your panna cotta having an ‘old school’ twist, you can use your little ‘flamby’ plastic containers – the panna cotta slides out of the moulds without effort. If you are using dariole mould or ramekins, you can take a sharp paring knife and loosen the edges or you can dip the mould into hot water for a few seconds to loosen the edges so that the panna cotta doesn’t stick to the mould.

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Dariole Mold Plating - FB

Plastic Mould with Spoon - FB

Pumpkin Panna Cotta & Rooibos Syrup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 small containers

Adapted from: Pastry Affair


    Panna Cotta
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2½ Teaspoons Gelatine
  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 80ml Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Purée (I used butternut, but any pumpkin will work; if you make your own, make sure to remove more of the skin than you would normally – the whiter parts don’t soften as easily and can cause your end result to have a coarse texture)
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • A Pinch of Chinese All Spice
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
    Rooibos Syrup
  • 250ml granulated sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1 Teaspoon of Red Espresso (ground rooibos) or you can use a few teabags
  • 4 Vanilla Husks (vanilla beans already scraped out and used for something else)
  • 4 Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Star Anise
  • Rind of half a Small Orange
  • 2 Lemons


    Panna Cotta Instructions
  1. Work the pumpkin purée through a sieve and place it in a food processor. Add the cream, salt, all spices and salt. Blend until smooth.
  2. Bloom the gelatine with some of the milk.
  3. Add the rest of the milk to a saucepan and heat up. Add the pumpkin mix to the milk. Take an emulsion blender and blend the mixture to make sure more of the uneven pumpkin particles get broken down. Keep on heating this mixture.
  4. Melt the gelatine in the microwave and pour it into the hot pumpkin & milk mixture. Mix well for another 2 minutes. Please don’t let it boil.
  5. You can now pour out the mixture into your containers. Once the mixture is cool you can cover it and place in the fridge until it is set firmly. Mine was set overnight.
  6. Once the panna cot is set, unmold and add the rooibos syrup and a dollop of cream.
    Rooibos Syrup Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized pot.
  2. Over very low heat, stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. If you are not sure, press onto the base of the pot with your finger. (Before you do this, please be sure that the mixture is not too hot). This step is crucial!
  3. Once all of the sugar is dissolved, boil the mixture over medium heat for about 12 minutes – DO NOT mix the sugar syrup – just leave the pot as is without stirring.
  4. Strain the syrup through a sieve to remove all of the larger flavour elements. Set it aside to cool.
  5. Once the syrup is cool, add the juice of 2 lemons and mix with some warm water to make sure it is not too thick. It should be not nearly as thick as the syrup you get at the supermarket. It should in fact be a little watery.
  6. Because the panna cotta already has sugar in, having too much or a too thick sauce on your plate will leave you ending up with a dessert that is inedible.
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