When the colder weather arrives my thoughts turn to soup, home made of course. Soup is fantastic for this time of year and can be very forgiving if you have slightly less than fresh veggies that need finishing – not that I am advocating using items that have started to rot! I had been planning to make Leek and Potato soup for ages and now I had no excuse, with leeks left over from Turkey Flan with Leeks & Cheese, potatoes in the cupboard and turkey stock in the freezer. So far this year as the weather has been fairly mild and life has been busy soup has not made much of an appearance on the menu, but this last Saturday I finally rectified that. This soup is not just for winter though. It can also be served chilled during the summer months, often served poured over two or three ice cubes and garnished with leek strands as below or a sprinkling of chives, see this BBC recipe. I had thought that Vichyssoise was the name of the cold version with the hot soup called the much less exciting Leek & Potato. I discovered however that both hot and cold versions can be called Vichyssoise and further it is quite possible that it is not, as I had previously learned (or perhaps assumed having visited Vichy in France) a uniquely French soup. According to Wikipedia:
‘…food writer Julia Child calls Vichyssoise “an American invention” whereas others observe that “the origin of the soup is questionable in whether it’s genuinely French or an American creation”‘.
There are a lot of good Leek & Potato Soup/Vichyssoise recipes around. This version came from Potatoes: more than Mashed by Sally Mansfield, one of my most recent charity shop finds. It has other lovely ideas I am sure its recipes will appear again. The original quantity, however, was a less than generous lunch for the four people specified so the quantities below have been increased by about a quarter so as a first course it could probably serve up to six. There are also a few little personal tweaks: cooking in olive oil as well as butter, increasing the onion, adding fine strips of leek and crème fraîche to garnish. The original recipe was for chicken stock but turkey or vegetable stock can be substituted. For a richer soup replace some of the water with milk or even single cream (in which case a little could be reserved to swirl on top). Yoghurt, or as I used this time, crème fraîche could also add the finishing touch. All that is needed is some lovely crusty bread to serve alongside. In the picture is a small piece of a large Pide flatbread bought from the wonderful bakery in our local Turkish supermarket.
Leek & Potato Soup
(Serves 3-4 or 6-8 as a starter)
1tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, chopped (reserve a few fine slices to garnish)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
454g/1lb potatoes, floury type if available, chopped
1150ml/2pints chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (or use mix of stock & either milk or cream)
Salt & ground black pepper
Cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche
Fine strands of leek
Grind of black pepper
1. Heat half of the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and chopped leeks until transparent and soft, about 7 minutes. Stir them occasionally and make sure that they do not brown.
2. Add the potato pieces and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30-35 minutes. The vegetables should be very tender. Taste and season as required.
4. The soup can be left either very chunky or liquidised until smooth. I part liquidise the soup so there are a few chunks left. Take care over liquidising potato as the starch can make it very sticky. Add plenty of liquid with the vegetables and liquidise in short bursts until smooth. Return to the pan, combining with any remaining chunks if making a mixed texture soup.
5. Reheat the soup, stirring in the remaining butter in small pieces. Check seasoning.
6. Serve with a swirl of cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche, a few strands of leek and a grind of black pepper in each bowl, along with a piece of crusty bread.