Chilled potato-leek soup, or Vichyssoise, is an excellent budget dish to have up one's sleeve. At its most basic, the soup's humble ingredients combine to form a silky, luxurious meal far greater than the sum of its parts. In other words: I eat it quite a bit. But I'd never heard of anything like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's verdant version before. The velvety green soup in his new cookbook River Cottage Veg contains not only the potatoes and leeks, but also a couple of cucumbers and heads of butter lettuce as well. Even crazier is the fact that he cooks both of these ingredients before blitzing the mess in a blender. Yet, it works. The greenery adds a refreshing touch and brilliant color to the soup, and the dollop of creme fraiche at the end is the perfect tangy-rich note to finish.
Why I picked this recipe: Cooked cucumber and cooked lettuce? I had to try it.
What worked: Everything, from the ingredient list to the finishing touches, worked brilliantly.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: You could substitute spinach or another soft leafy green for the Little Gem if you still can't wrap your head around cooking lettuce. The croutons are a nice addition, but if you want to skip them, the soup doesn't suffer.
Reprinted with permission from River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 2 tablespoons (60g) butter
- 2 leeks, trimmed (white and pale green parts only) and sliced, or 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 large, starchy potato (about 8 ounces/250g), peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and cubed
- 2 Little Gem or butterhead lettuces, shredded
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream or crème fraîche
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the croutons:
- 1/4 cup (60ml) canola or olive oil
- 4 slices of bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes
- To finish:
- Chopped chives
- Heavy cream or crème fraîche
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks or onion, cover, and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the potato and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potato is almost cooked. Add the cubed cucumbers and shredded lettuce, return to a boil, and simmer for a further 4 minutes.
Scoop out the potato chunks and rub them through a sieve, run them through a food mill, or press them through a potato ricer into a large bowl (whizzing them in a blender would make the soup gluey). Purée the simmered mixture in a blender, add to the sieved potato, and stir well. Stir in the cream or crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cool completely, then chill for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, make the croutons. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bread and fry, turning often, for a few minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool.
Serve the chilled soup topped with a swirl of cream or crème fraîche, chopped chives, and croutons.