A rustic and traditional French vegetable soup with chunks of potatoes, leeks, carrots, and fennel.
There’s something about making French vegetable soup that’s cozy and comforting, leading to good memories and warm moments insulated from the cold of winter.
One of the most wonderful things about food is how it can bring you back to a certain feeling or moment, allowing you to re-live an experience: the people, the place, how you felt, all sparked by the act of making something to eat. That’s what making this soup does for me. This is the soup that changed my mind about soup (or so I’ve been told).
One day when I was very young (too young to remember all the details), my mother, my grandmother and I went to visit my great-grandmother at her house. When we arrived we were immediately greeted by the inviting aroma of soup simmering on the stove. I said “ça sent bon mémé” (that smells good great-grandma) and she asked me if I’d like a bowl. My mother laughed and said she doubted that I would eat it because I didn’t like soup, but my great-grandmother said that was okay and she would go and get me a bowl anyhow.
Well apparently I liked it; so much so that I immediately asked for a second bowl after having polished off the first in record time and we were sent home with leftovers so that I could have even more later that day! Since that day, I have never looked back, embracing all kinds of soups with the same eager enthusiasm.
The soup my great-grandmother had on the stove that day was a simple vegetable soup that can be found in most French homes throughout the winter months. The most common ingredients in the soup are leeks, carrots, and potatoes.
Please don’t underestimate the potential for the amazing depth of flavor this soup possesses simply by the relative austerity of its ingredients. It is the pure and distinct flavors of these simple ingredients that work together in harmony to create something greater than can possibly be anticipated. The slow simmering of vegetables together with a few seasonings in water, rather than broth, coalesces them into a savory soup every bit as comforting and satisfyingly delicious as more complex preparations.
This recipe is an adapted version of the vegetable soup my great-grandmother made many years ago. Easy to make, even better the next day; this soup can be served chunky or puréed and has an infinite number of possible variations as far as the vegetables are concerned.
The version I make is brothy with chunks of potatoes, leeks, carrots, and fennel. Sublime in it’s simplicity, this is the kind of soup you make during the day on a weekend when you can slowly let it simmer on the stove letting the soothing aromas envelope every corner of your house.
A Traditional French Vegetable Soup.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 large waxy potatoes, cut into large chunks
- 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, well rinsed and thinly sliced
- 4 to 5 medium sized carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks
- 1-2 small garlic cloves, smashed but left whole
- 1 bouquet garni (made with 2 dried bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley and thyme tied together in cheesecloth purse with a piece of kitchen twine)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- fresh spring water to cover the vegetables
- freshly ground black pepper
- In a large heavy stockpot, add all the chopped vegetables, the garlic, bouquet garni, olive-oil and salt and cover with at least twice as much water as there are vegetables.
- Bring to a boil and simmer, half covered, until the vegetables are very tender, and the broth has become slightly opaque about 1 to 1 ½ hours (the longer the soup simmers the more flavorful the broth.)
- Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Pepper to taste.
- Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little extra olive oil if desired.
- The soup will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator and is even better the next day.
The soup can also be puréed in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender.
Variations: Add or substitute any other winter vegetables such as parsnips, turnips or celery root to the soup as you please, always remembering to cover the vegetables with twice as much water.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 184Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 757mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 4g
Nutritional information for recipes contained on this website, such as calories, fat, carbs, etc. are only estimates and are not guaranteed to be accurate.