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Eric Akis: A potato soup to get excited about

In-season B.C. Warba potatoes and asparagus are combined with other vegetables in this soup you could serve with crusty bread or rolls.
A hearty soup made with in-season B.C. Warba potatoes, asparagus and other vegetables. ERIC AKIS

I don’t usually get excited when I see a mound of potatoes for sale, but that changes in late spring and early summer when the potatoes being offered are labelled Warba.

According to governmental sources, this potato was bred into existence in 1927 at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s a cross between a potato called Triumph and one simply called Minn. 4-16.

The Warba potato was designed to be an early-producing crop. It was registered in Canada in the 1930s, and eventually began to be grown in B.C.

Dimpled with rosy spots, Warba potatoes, sometimes categorized as nugget potatoes, are harvested before they reach maturity. Because of that, they have a thin, parchment-like skin, firm, white flesh, and appealing, slightly sweet, mildly earthy flavour.

Warba potatoes do not have the same protection a thicker-skinned mature potato such as a russet has, making them more perishable. That’s why it’s recommended that you keep Warba potatoes in the refrigerator, especially if you plan to store them for a while.

Warba potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways, including simply boiling them and tossing them with butter and snipped chives, using them in salads, and simmering them in a soup, which is what I did.

To make the soup, I simmered cubed Warba potatoes in a thickened stock mixture with onions, carrots, celery and flavourings.

When the potatoes were tender, I stirred in bright green pieces of blanched asparagus along with some cream (or milk or dairy-free beverage).

This Warba potato and asparagus soup is hearty and flavourful and could be served for lunch or dinner. Any leftover soup you have will freeze well.

Warba Potato and Asparagus Soup

In-season B.C. Warba potatoes and asparagus are combined with other vegetables in this soup you could serve with crusty bread or rolls.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Makes: four servings

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup grated carrot

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups unpeeled Warba potatoes, washed well, dried, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 350 grams)

• splash or two Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce (optional)

12 (about 1/2 inch thick) asparagus spears, tough lower stems removed, upper part of the spears cut, widthwise, into 3/4-inch long pieces and blanched (see Note)

1/2 cup half and half (10 per cent) cream or milk or dairy-free beverage, such as oat beverage

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Melt the butter, or heat the oil, in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, about four to five minutes. Mix in flour, garlic and thyme and cook and stir one to two minutes more.

While stirring constantly, slowly pour in one cup of the stock. When mixture thickens, slowly stir in the rest of the stock. Mix in the potatoes and the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce, if using, then bring the soup to a gentle simmer. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer, and then simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Mix in the blanched asparagus and cream (or milk or dairy-free beverage) and heat them through two to three minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper, and it’s ready to serve.

Note: To blanch the asparagus, plunge into a pot of boiling water two to three minutes, or until bright green and just tender. Drain well, cool with ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.