This is soup without a recipe, made from winter vegetables that are mostly white.
If you only cook one soup, this should be the one. That’s because it can go rich and fancy (add heavy cream!), spare and pure (use only one vegetable variety!), vegan and virtuous (no butter, no chicken stock!), etc. Dress it up for the holiday meal with fresh truffle shavings. Or add a droplet of cream and minced fresh herbs. It’s pillowy and creamy, even without dairy.
Winter vegetables (in the northeast USA) are hardy. They’ll keep in your fridge for a while. I often make this soup when I want to clean out the fridge, using up scraps and neglected veggies. No need for stock because the vegetables are so flavorful they create their own stock when cooked with water. Add milk if you want more protein and a more unctuous mouth feel.
Make a lot of this soup and freeze single portions for easy, takeout lunches. Have it as an elegant first course for a winter meal. Mix up which vegetables you use (add a little parsnip, for example, or turnips… anything white). Make this soup!
(I say “without a recipe” because once you get the gist of this soup, you can do it without a recipe. Basically, sauté the aromatics — onions/leeks/garlic if you want — then throw in the chopped vegetables with water or broth, simmer until soft about 15 minutes, add dairy if using it, then blend. Endlessly adaptable!)
Winter White Soup
Adapted from The River Cottage Family Cookbook
3 medium leeks
2 tablespoons butter (optional; add a little more oil if not using butter)
1 tablespoon canola or sunflower oil
1 large or 2 medium potatoes (8 ounces)
1 small cauliflower (1 pound)
1 small head of celery root (about 12 ounces)
1 pound sunchokes
10 cups of water, vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup whole milk (optional)
½ cup heavy cream (optional)
- Peel and chop the onion. Clean the leeks and slice them about 1/2 inch thick.
- Put the butter and oil in a large, heavy saucepan and turn heat on to low. Add the onions and leeks, cover, and cook the vegetables gently for a few minutes until soft.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Cut the the cauliflower and break the cauliflower into florets (it’s OK to use the stem but not the leaves). Scrub and loosely peel the sunchokes, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
- At the last minute, peel the celery root thickly so that you’re left with just the white flesh (like a banana, celeriac turns brown quickly once it’s been cut). Chop this into cubes and add to the pan, with the potatoes, cauliflower and sunchokes – as well as the stock, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cold milk, then turn off the heat and let the soup cool for at least 15 minutes (to eliminate the danger of blending very hot liquids). Purée the soup in the blender a few ladlefuls at a time. You can either reheat it now, to serve immediately, or chill it in the fridge and use within 5 days.
- Return the blended soup to the pan. Stir in the cream, and reheat gently but thoroughly. It doesn’t need to boil again, but it should be piping hot. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve soup just as it is or with an extra little swirl of cream and chopped chives. Warm sliced baguette (bread) on the side is nice, too.