Summer. It can be a weird season. Here in Europe, I’ve seen days when it’s been 42˚C and others when it’s been 18˚C. Down in the South-West of France, the evenings actually cool down quite a bit so while you might be sweltering in the daytime, come the evening you might need a light sweater or jacket. It does make cooking and planning meals a little challenging – but here’s a perfect soup for that changeable summer weather – vichyssoise.
Vichy-what? There’s a great detailed history of this very French-sounding soup over on What’s Cooking America and it isn’t really clear where this soup originated (summarized here):
- Some say King Louis XV of France (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774) invented it accidentally. He was concerned people were trying to poison him and insisted that multiple people taste his food before he did. By the time it came to him trying his soup, it was cold and he decided he preferred potato soup this way.
- A recipe for Leek and Potato Soup (though it was served warm) was published in Jules Gouffe’s 1869 Royal Cookery Book.
- In the 1903 edition of Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, there is a recipe for Puree Parmentier, a French cream of leek and potato soup, also served warm.
- Chef Louis Diat, who worked (amongst other places) for the Ritz hotels, is widely credited with inventing this soup. When he was working at New York’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, he created a cold leek and potato soup known as Vichyssoise. In those days, there was no air-conditioning and the Ritz boasted a rooftop garden so Diat was always looking for cool dishes for the hot summer months. He had wonderful memories of a simple hot leek and potato soup made by his mother – a soup that the family routinely cooled down by adding milk. Diat created the same soup for his Ritz Carlton customers and called it “crème vichyssoise“. This is the name by which it’s known outside France so don’t go looking for it on a French menu 😉
Whatever its origins, it makes for a delicious soup – and is just as tasty warm as it is cold – making it an ideal choice for changeable temperatures. I’ve written about a couple of different versions before (for French Fridays with Dorie and for the Julia Child 100) and the version I am sharing today is a combination of many others I’ve tried. It’s lightened up (as in, it doesn’t use cream), though you can stir through some cream if you like – I find that for summer days, the Greek yoghurt as a garnish makes it plenty creamy and not too heavy.
Vichyssoise (chilled leek and potato soup)
Easy leek and potato soup - serve it chilled or warm.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion (approx. 200g)
- 4 small leeks (approx. 500g)
- 4 medium potatoes (approx. 450g)
- 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable or chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- plain Greek yoghurt, for garnish
- Chives, for garnish
- Peel and thinly slice the onion and potatoes (you don’t have to peel the potatoes, though it does make for a smoother soup).
- Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the leek, rinsing and patting dry if necessary.
- In a large heavy pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they begin to soften but not colour, around 5 minutes.
- Add the leeks and mix to thoroughly coat them with the butter/ oil. Continue to sauté until the leeks are softened, around 5 more minutes.
- Add the potatoes and the stock, increase the heat to high and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very soft (they should mash easily with a fork), about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend until smooth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve warm or chilled with a dollop of plain Green yoghurt and a sprinkle of chives.
Recipe shared with permission, originally published on Front Door Organics.
You might also like: Chilled “Baked Potato” soup that I created for Jamie Oliver’s site.