Chilling out: vichyssoise

Who knew cold leek-and-potato soup could be so tasty – and so refined? This week I made a vichyssoise and it was delicious.

I love a cold soup on a hot day. My Barcelona trip had me yearning for a gazpacho, which has been my go-to chilled soup for years.

But now I’m rethinking that. The vichyssoise really hit the mark.

I found the recipe by chance in Rick Stein’s French Odyssey cookbook (available from Amazon and elsewhere). In it, he explains that when he was starting out in the 1960s, they used to serve this at the Great Western Hotel in Paddington, London, where he worked.

Rick Stein's French Odyssey

Thing is, they served it straight from a tin. It was assumed that as it came from France, it would be better than anything they could make themselves.

That’s a pretty sad indictment of British cooking.

After all, it’s really a rather simple soup to make. You take a kilo of leeks, some potato and an onion, slice them finely and then sweat them in some butter for ten minutes.

Then you add chicken stock, a little salt and pepper and simmer for half an hour. Finally, you liquidise, pass through a sieve, then add milk and double cream. Voilà.


Interestingly, there is some debate about whether this soup is actually French.

The French credit it to Louis XV’s chef. Afraid of being poisoned, the king had his servants taste his food first, which meant it was often cold by the time he came to eat it. Hence his hot leek-and-potato soup was cold.

The Basques also lay claim to it. They say that when the Spanish ambassador received a delegation from the Vichy government of France, his chef served a refined version of a traditional Basque soup, la porrusalda.

The Americans say that Louis Diat, a French chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City, created it to remind him of his childhood. His mother and grandmother had served leek-and-potato soup, which he used to cool with milk.


I have no idea who’s right.

Rick Stein says that vichyssoise is far and away his favourite chilled soup. I think it might just have become mine too.

This entry was published on Sat, 7 Sep 2019 at 09:30. It’s filed under Food and wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

15 thoughts on “Chilling out: vichyssoise

  1. Served hot with a dollop of creme fraiche is great for cold days, too! It is funny that when we served it to our French neighbors that none of them had ever heard of it or had it before and it was a hit.


  2. I’m with Bill in enjoying it hot on a cold day (only 2C here this morning!). But it is good chilled on a very hot day. I found a lovely recipe for a cold Spanish soup, like a gazpacho but with almonds and lots of garlic, of course. Mm. Getting hungry, but it’s not lunchtime yet!


  3. Nom nom nom….. me like as well!

    Bu oh how tasteful yer presentation …!

    Very HAUTE cuisine…. ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely one of my favorites, hot and cold.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds delicious. Have had/made gazpacho but it only works in hot weather for me. Currently in Trier, Germany but heading for France tomorrow. A few German cities with history under our belts & the Moselle Valley….but starting to get pangs for France. Best meal of trip so far? Italian restaurant in Koblenz. Go figure…!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know I’m in the minority but I really don’t like cold soups. I have tried to like them but they just don’t work for me. On the other hand, I love that particular Rick Stein book, mainly because he features the Canal du Midi which is where we live. I got mine in our local Oxfam book shop!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yum. I’d forgotten about this soup. Thanks so much for the reminder. I have the cookbook at home so will be definitely making this one when we get back to Australia!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love soups that you can eat both hot or cold. This is one of our family’s favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

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