The French just seem to have a knack making soups. One of my favorites is a potage; It’s a type of thick vegetable soup that loosely translates to “it’s cold outside and I want a good soup to warm me up.” Alright, no, it doesn’t translate to that at all. But that’s how I remember it.
Every year as the weather started getting colder, my mother would start boiling away vegetables in a large pot to make this soup. As I started to develop an interest in cooking, I tried to pay attention to what she was putting into the pot but I could never figure it out. Just when I thought I understood, I realized that the recipe was different than the previous ones! She seemed to say something about potatoes, leeks, and “n’importe quel légume frais”. This always baffled me. Not because I didn’t understand French (I did, she was saying “any fresh vegetables”), but because it seemed impossible to consistently make the same soup over again.
Of course, her reply was that you wouldn’t want to make the same soup! I insisted that you could make a good recipe and remake it for yourself or guests if needed. “Oh, mais c’est toujours bon,” she would say, proclaiming it is always good.
If it was so seemingly straightforward, what was there to worry about? Honestly, I was afraid that I would end up with baby food. Isn’t that what you think of when you think of blended, boiled carrots? It seems that the French don’t automatically think that. Instead, they think that it would probably taste good in a soup. You know what? They are right. Again.
When I got over my fear of accidentally making baby food, I finally gave it a try. I forced my mother to give me some guide lines. There was a lot of “I don’t knows” and “Just try its” but after a lot of cursing and yelling in French, I was able to find some consistencies. My biggest tip is using leeks and potatoes. Root vegetables usually work spectacularly, but broccoli, cauliflower, and even spinach work well too. Myself, I am fond of adding lots of carrots.
Don’t let this limit you though, make any additions you want or increase any of the quantities. Change it up, try other combinations. Look at what is on sale in the store and try those. This can be a deliciously cheap soup.
Makes enough for six good servings. For extra richness, cream or creme fraiche can be added either at the table or in the last 30 seconds of heating (don’t boil it after the cream is added).
3 large carrots
3 big potatoes
salt, pepper to taste
1. Wash and peel all the vegetables and cut into approx. 1 inch chunks.
2. Put them in a large pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. I season very lightly. Fill the pot with just enough water to come to the top of the vegetables. Heat on medium high and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook for 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are all soft and tender.
4. Blend in batches using a stand blender to directly in the pot with a stick blender.