Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

I Made This Beef and Leek Soup in a Blackout to Make My Boyfriend Love Me. He Loved the Soup

by 
Kiki Dy
May 25, 2021

In the loneliness of lockdown, while others folded their grievances into baguettes and sourdough loaves, I took to making soups. Bread proved too reliant on exactness, fickle increments of ingredients that were not open to interpretation. Soups, however, invited experimentation and chaos –– exactly what I needed. 

Bear with me as I wax poetic: Soups can be anything. They can be nothing (chicken broth); they can be everything (whatever this maximalist recipe is I’m sharing). Soups have no boundaries, and, at one point, I even thought a soup could save my relationship. 

The story of this specific soup, like most great stories, begins with two bottles of shiraz and a side of self-loathing.

In September, I returned to Scotland in a confused attempt to resurrect a relationship that was doomed by geographical, legal, and metaphysical limitations. Though we certainly loved each other or, at least, had a robust pheromonal draw, the relationship was hanging on by the flimsy tethers of Soup Sunday and T-word Tuesday (which I won’t ruin your appetite with the details of). 

Soup Sunday was a weekly ritual where I would choose a soup to slow cook all day while my boyfriend played video games and smoked weed to whet his appetite. (The division of labor in this relationship was also not great). 

It was a sanctioned day of peace, 24 hours where the world wasn’t burning, the future wasn’t a factor, and all there was to do was dice vegetables and make out.

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I usually kept my drinking in check for the event until one day I shirked Soup Sunday –- or so I thought –– in favor of shiraz sipping and scream-singing along to Alanis Morrisette. 

Drunk and nowhere to go, my muscle memory apparently led me into the kitchen to make my magnum opus of soups. I awoke the following day foggily with only faint memories of chopping leeks and cabbage and crying. 

The following week my boyfriend wanted the soup again, but I couldn’t remember what the hell I did.

Locked in a shoebox one-bedroom apartment, I began to get psychotic about the soup. I put unrealistic expectations on it, pacing around the kitchen thinking: 

Once I figure out the soup, the lockdown can end. 

Once the spice blend is perfect, I’ll lose 10 pounds, gain a mysterious fortune, and write a novel. 

Once I get this right, I can design a world where my relationship works and walk into a forever with no fighting or failures. 

Weeks went by. I added Chinese five-spice here, a sip of shiraz there; eventually, the soup was working, but the relationship still was not. And when I grew to accept that it never would, I booked a flight and started chopping. After all, if I was going to break his heart, I might as well let him have the soup. 

I froze a few quarts, kissed him one last time, and haphazardly packed up my underwear and the idea of us. I went back home to trade romantic tensions for familial ones. 

Some Sundays, I still make the soup. While it doesn’t taste the same, with every adaptation, it evolves into something even better. I guess that’s the beauty of soup: You can add and adjust until it works, or you can simply start from scratch. 

Blackout Beef and Leek Soup

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, diced 

4 cloves of garlic, minced 

2 tbsps olive oil 

1 lb. ground beef (ground pork also works great if you take the chinese five spice option) 

2 medium leeks cut into ¼ inch rounds 

3 cups shredded cabbage 

1 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced

3/4 cup celery, diced 

4 cups beef broth (Better Than Bouillon preferred) 

2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes 

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 lemon 

Fresh parsley 

2 tsps Chinese five spice powder (optional) 

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano 

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)

Note: This recipe is a great base to clear out the fridge. All vegetables work wonderfully. For some extra substance I typically dice some gold potatoes or add in spätzle or whatever short noodle I have on hand.

 | 
 | 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, diced 

4 cloves of garlic, minced 

2 tbsps olive oil 

1 lb. ground beef (ground pork also works great if you take the chinese five spice option) 

2 medium leeks cut into ¼ inch rounds 

3 cups shredded cabbage 

1 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced

3/4 cup celery, diced 

4 cups beef broth (Better Than Bouillon preferred) 

2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes 

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 lemon 

Fresh parsley 

2 tsps Chinese five spice powder (optional) 

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano 

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)

Note: This recipe is a great base to clear out the fridge. All vegetables work wonderfully. For some extra substance I typically dice some gold potatoes or add in spätzle or whatever short noodle I have on hand.

Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, diced 

4 cloves of garlic, minced 

2 tbsps olive oil 

1 lb. ground beef (ground pork also works great if you take the chinese five spice option) 

2 medium leeks cut into ¼ inch rounds 

3 cups shredded cabbage 

1 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced

3/4 cup celery, diced 

4 cups beef broth (Better Than Bouillon preferred) 

2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes 

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 lemon 

Fresh parsley 

2 tsps Chinese five spice powder (optional) 

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano 

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)

Note: This recipe is a great base to clear out the fridge. All vegetables work wonderfully. For some extra substance I typically dice some gold potatoes or add in spätzle or whatever short noodle I have on hand.

Directions

1. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic to a large soup pot with the olive oil and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft (approximately 5 minutes). 

2. Add the ground beef, ground pepper and the Chinese 5-spice and sauté with the aromatics until browned. If you use a higher fat beef, drain some of the fat once the beef has browned.

3. Deglaze pan with the red wine.

4. Now it’s time to get fancy. Grab those chopped leeks, shredded cabbage, stewed tomatoes (don’t ditch the juices),, oregano, basil, bay leaves, your freshly cracked pepper (I use a VERY heavy hand, like 20 cranks of a pepper mill, but don’t feel any pressure), the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Stir everything to combine.

5. Place a lid on your pot, crank that heat up to high, and allow your soup to come to a boil. Once we’re boiling, turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until your veggies are very soft.

6. Add another ¼ cup splash of dry red wine if you desire. Drinking the rest of the bottle is entirely optional. 

7. Remove bay leaves.

8. Taste the soup and add salt or more of the other spices if you need (I do not add salt when using Better than Bouillon but you may need to depending on your broth). 

9. Use a spoon to break any big pieces of tomato into smaller pieces. Cut your lemon and squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice into the soup. 

10. Throw in a handful of chopped fresh parsley, add boiled noodles if you’re including them, and stir everything to combine. 

11. Give it one final taste, make any needed adjustments, and serve with more fresh parsley.

About the Author

Kiki Dy

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