We're just back from a week in England...

Leek & Potato Soup Recipes are at the bottom of the post so you will read this stuff first!

It was a great trip, just some family time to see David's mum's new digs in Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent. Pauline’s condo is a part of the Trentham Estate which dates back to 1086! Her house is part of a revitalization of the estate built for the Duke of Sutherland between 1833 & 1850.  The buildings and surrounding gardens are Italianate style and we loved waking up feeling like we were in Italy each day.

The weather was cooperating nicely on most days so we had some brisk walks on the lane and around the lake at Trentham Gardens. We befriended two silly ponies along the way and fed them apples each time we went by.  
We had high hopes to make a side trip to London to make some business calls and visit with my friend Andrea. Andi is a bit "veganish" these days after reading Skinny Bitch and The Kind Diet  (courtesy of guess who) and she had "sussed" out a great veg restaurant for us to have dinner. A place called SAF.  We are so sad to have missed out on that and a visit with you Andi, next time for sure!

I must confess, I was a bit concerned about food before we left Maine, wondering what we might eat (or not eat) while in the UK. As many of you know, I have been following a plant-based diet for 2 years now. Although I have found its easy to give up meat and dairy, it has not always been so easy to maintain my usual diet of healthy, low-fat plant based foods while traveling.  Another scary thing, David's mother Pauline is a fantastic cook who entertains often. Why is that so scary you say? Because my mother always told us to eat what was served to us, whether we liked it or not I knew we would be mighty tempted to stray from our favorite veggie standards such as salads or baked potato when enticed by Pauline's daily menus a la Le Cordon Bleu.  Most meals would surely contain butter, cream, cheese, bacon, did I say butter, double cream and ham with a bit of meat on the side. Oh, and to balance out the meat, some veggies, perfectly steamed, with a bit of butter on the side.   We arrived on Monday to find Pauline  beavering away at the stove. We were just in time for a delicious lunch!
Pol stirring the pot!
Oh what is she cooking, I thought to myself. How will I ever explain our food choices? OK, here we go, just let it be MiMi, no big deal. After the initial greetings and some time spent chatting and catching up we were informed that there would be a simple Leek and Potato Soup for lunch. Whew, I'm thinking that sounds do-able, if she leaves out the cream and hasn't sauteed the veggies in butter! When Pol served the soup, I inquired about the recipe trying to suss out the amount of cream and butter involved. We were pleasantly surprised to find the soup was prepared vegan style and in fact there were even many vegan ingredients in the house such as soy milk, some English version of Earth Balance, organic oatmeal and tons of fruits and veggies.  All of this to help us feel more welcome in her new home, Pauline really went out of her way. 
I don't know about you but one of my favorite things to do when I visit another country is to go to the food market, grocery store, or whatever the local equivalent might be. This is what we did for most of the week hitting both ends of the market spectrum.  Pol took us to Brown & Green artisan/sustainable market in Trentham Gardens within walking distance to her place and then to the nearly wal-mart sized Tesco. I felt like a kid in a candy store! So many new, unusual or not-able-to-find ingredients. The spice aisles seemed to go on forever and although I don't even usually look for it at home, I felt the need to check out the vegan "junk"  and processed foods section. There were so many interesting and strange things that besides my cache of spices and quick-cook whole grain packets, I did buy some instant "cheez- less" sauce, some vegan mints, and some fake parmesan cheese stuff.  NOT on the plan for sure, but as I mentioned, I don't even know if these things exist in the States so I grabbed them just for the novelty. Pol had a laugh at me, realizing I was buying junk and not real food because even though she cooks foods I choose not to eat these days, Pauline's meals are real, made from scratch, and not processed junk!
                                                         While we were out, mum and son also did some shopping for a few items on their lists:                                   
1. a sound system to keep Pauline singing in the kitchen
2. Valentine Tie for Roy
3. Some new duds for David to help him be more FCUK stylish :-)


Thanks Pol for being the most gracious and accommodating of hostesses, even if you might not understand or agree with our food choices. And thanks Roy, for your patience, good humor and those challenging games of Rumikub in the evenings! (and for keeping the wine flowing!)
Roy opening wine

Leek & Potato Soup - Two Ways
Pauline's Recipe
4 Leeks washed and sliced
1. 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
1 oz vegan margarine
1. 3/4pints Light vegetable stock
3-4 tablespoons of non-dairy cream (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Fry leeks and potatoes very gently in margarine ,cover for 10 minutes stirring often.
2 Cook gently without browning, still covered for further 10 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent vegetables sticking to pan.
3.Add stock stir, then simmer for 5-10 minutes until veg. are soft and tender.
4. Puree in blender adding cream if using. Season to taste and sprinkled with a little chopped parsley if liked.
MiMi's Recipe (similar but lower fat)
1 onion diced
2 -3 leeks light green and white bits,  chopped & washed if needed
2 - 3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped or pressed with garlic press right into saucepan
5 - 6 potatoes (about 2 lbs.) peeled and chopped, I think Yukon Gold would work well
4 - 6 cups of vegetable broth or water
crushed rosemary, salt  & white pepper to taste


1.Heat a small amount of stock or water in a medium size saucepan.
2. Add the leeks & onion, steam saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion begins to turn translucent.
3. Add the garlic and stir well. Cook for another minute.
4. Add the potatoes and 4 cups of the vegetable stock, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove the soup from the heat and use an immersion/stick blender to blend the soup in the pot or ladle the soup into a blender, 1 cup at a time. Blend the soup with the fresh rosemary leaves until smooth and free of chunks. Pour smooth soup into a heat-proof bowl and continue until all of the soup has been blended.
6. Transfer the blended soup back to the original soup pot and warm over low heat until heated through. Add S & P to taste
*this a very simple soup to make and you should feel free to ad lib! 
Every day is Valentine's Day at The Leafy Cafe! Luv Ewes!


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