11 June 2018
Hot summer days mean that chilled soups become possible - they’re simply not to be contemplated at any other time. I have two favourites - one is the bright, fresh and powerful gazpacho and the other is simple but smoothly delicious vichyssoise.
Unlike gazpacho, vichyssoise can be eaten hot, in which case it becomes simply leek and potato soup. But it has another element to the experience when eaten chilled. According to legend, it was invented by Louis Diat, a French chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York, who said that in 1917 he’d been recalling how he and his brother would cool leek and potato soup by pouring in cold milk - something that made it delicious. He decided to create something on the same principles for his customers.
It’s another of those recipes, similar to pasta con ceci, which provides a level of flavour that goes magically beyond the simplicity of its ingredients and its preparation. You can’t make a simpler soup, but for all that it delivers taste that goes above and beyond the norm.
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 leeks, finely sliced, whites only
2 medium potatoes (Maris Piper or similar), peeled and diced
500ml good quality chicken stock
150ml whipping cream
Sea salt and ground white pepper
Handful finely sliced pale green leek
1 tablespoon oil
50ml whipping cream
Gently fry the shallot, garlic and the leeks in the butter, covered, for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until they are softened but not browned. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to the boil.
Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for a further 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool for a few minutes before puréeing in a blender, one batch at a time, until very smooth. Return to a clean saucepan.
Bring the soup gradually back to a simmer, and stir in the cream. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Either serve hot, or allow to cool to room temperature, and then chill for at least half an hour, covered with clingfilm or in a sealed container, in the fridge.
When ready to serve, fry the sliced pale green leeks in a small saucepan in the oil until they begin to go golden brown. Pour the soup into bowls and drop some of the crispy leeks in the centre, and drizzle the extra cream. Alternatively, you can garnish with chopped chives.
Frying off some of the green leeks helps use up something that might otherwise be thrown away (without disrupting the paleness of the soup). If you have some unused, then do add them to the vegetable sides for any of your next couple of meals.
Whipping cream is more tricky. To successfully freeze cream, it needs a high fat content - in other words, double cream. In principle, you may be able to freeze the whipping cream but you will need to whip it before freezing.