Come in from the cold and wrap your chilled, wintery hands around a mug of creamy vichyssoise soup. Tonight we’re huddling around the table with these parmesan enriched leek and potato soup-sip cups, topped with crispy bacon bit crumble. This is my interpretation of vichyssoise, the famed French classic leek and potato soup. Typically served chilled, but as we’re currently in the throws of winter, seeking both comfort and warmth, I prefer my vichyssoise piping hot. Said to have been created by a French chef working at the New York Ritz Hotel in 1917, the original vichyssoise was heavily laced with a generous quota of cream. French chef Jules Gouffé also published a recipe for a hot potato and leek soup, which appeared in Royal Cookery, dating back to 1869. It’s true origin is hotly debated as to whether it’s a French or American invention. Ownership aside, my vichyssoise version is slightly lighter but equally flavoursome, with the addition of sweet shallots, thyme and salty parmesan.
Soup is the quintessential winter, meal in a bowl. Add to this a crusty baguette, crunchy toppings and supper is sorted. Crumbly croutons are to soup what streusel is to a muffin – an irresistible textural topping! As the soup is quite rich, I prefer to serve smaller portions in either cups or mugs. The ingredients are mostly modest yet easily transformed into a deliciously rich and hearty supper. Although the crumble contains bacon bits, this is completely optional, so just omit if you’re following a Meat-free Monday.
Planning ahead is one way of sidestepping the temptation of fast foods or take aways. My leek and potato soup can be made in advance and frozen in suitably sized portions. When reheating remember to whisk with a balloon whisk to break up the tiny ice crystals and the soup will happily take on it’s former creamy texture. If you’re a mum needing some lunch box inspiration, I’m sure your kids will welcome a flask of steaming potato and leek soup to ward off the cold. So, brighten up a dreary winter’s day and ladle up some ivory-coloured goodness.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
3 medium sized leeks, cut into rounds
900g starchy potatoes, peeled and diced
several sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock , if you’re not doing the vegetarian option
1/3 cup single cream
1 cup full cream milk
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
For the bacon crumble
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 strips smoked, back bacon
1/2 cup, day old ciabatta breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
In a deep saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil. Sauté the shallots and leeks until soft and just starting to colour. Add the potatoes, thyme leaves and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves and stock. Simmer with the lid on for 35 minutes. Check that the potatoes are tender and soft. Remove the bay leaves and transfer to a blender. Blitz in batches until smooth.
Pour the soup back into the saucepan and add the cream, milk and parmesan cheese. Bring back up to a simmer and whisk with a balloon whisk to incorporate the cheese thoroughly.
For bacon crumble, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan. Brown the bacon on both sides until crispy and well coloured. Drain on a paper towel. Chop the bacon into fine pieces. Add the ciabatta crumbs to the pan and fry until golden and crisp. Season the croutons with a little salt and pepper. Add the bacon to the breadcrumbs and stir through the 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool and crisp up. Serve the crumble topping alongside the soup.