Cream of Tomato & Potato Soup

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In case you were wondering what the soup is which is photographed with the Rustic Bacon & Cheddar Bread, it is the Cream of Tomato & Potato Soup from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David.

Long before cooking became a passionate hobby and was more of a matter of survival for me, I heavily relied on cookbooks to put together really basic and simple meals like … vegetable soups. Yes, for something which merely required a few ingredients to be cooked together with some stock and then thrown in the blender, I needed careful instruction on how to do exactly that. And who else to turn to for motherly advice in the kitchen, when my own mother was absent, than Elizabeth David.

For those who do not know of Elizabeth David, she was a British cookery writer whose travels and adventures around the Mediterranean came to influence her way of cooking and eating and, in turn, introduced new flavours and exotic ingredients to her home country. She inspired home cooks and chefs with her simple and no-fuss recipes in the post-war era when British cuisine needed a boost of confidence after having been made weary from war rations and the like.

Looking back, I’m rather surprised that I managed to cook from a book which looked more like a history book and had no pictures, but after reading just a few words penned by this inspiring woman, I was instantly taken by her transporting memoirs and read most of her cookbooks as though they were novels. I daresay that her books were among those which started my love affair with food and cooking.

French Provincial Cooking remains one of my favourite cookbooks, my go-to book when I want to recreate some French classics, many of which are surprisingly dishes from my childhood. When my family were not cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes, the “other” meals were simply described as “French”, meals which my family in France and Switzerland were very adept at creating at home, not only because some French dishes had become well-known to the Vietnamese, but also because you would have been hard-pressed to find ingredients like coriander and lemongrass in continental Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, and my family had to adapt their cooking accordingly.

Owing to its simplicity, this soup happens to be my most-used recipe from French Provincial Cooking. You slowly cook some leeks in butter until they are tender and translucent, before adding some chopped tomatoes and potatoes, cover with water (I use stock), and later blend into a smooth soup.

I often serve the soup as is, with some bread on the side, or I frequently fry up some rashers of bacon and crumble this into the soup for a salty burst of flavour. I’m not sure if Elizabeth David would approve but she is the one who, after all, encouraged some intuition in the kitchen.

33 Comments

  1. Gamel (pronounced Jamel) 4 May 2012

    Oh my that looks yummy…. I love homemade soups!!!

    Reply
  2. Rushi 4 May 2012

    Mmmmmm and I’ve got all the ingredients at home. I was thinking of a simple tomato soup but I love this idea. It’s quite gloomy over here in France and I think this will be the perfect supper to add a bit of warmth :)

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 4 May 2012

      Oh I hope the weather will pick up soon. We are lucky to have some sunshine in Switzerland at the moment … though probably not for long! I love simple tomato soups too and it is probably why I like this particular soup because you have that slightly sour taste from the tomatoes, plus they give a lovely colour to the soup :-)

      Reply
      • Rushi 17 May 2012

        I made the soup!!! I made the soup and it’s really really good! I love flavours – the tomatoes don’t overpower the soup infact they go hand in hand with the potatoes. It’s heaven in a bowl with some baguette to dip in.

        Reply
        • eat, little bird 18 May 2012

          Oh how wonderful to hear that you also tried this soup! It’s really lovely, isn’t it? I could do with a bowl right now …

          Reply
  3. This looks so tasty – and easy too! Love this idea!

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 4 May 2012

      It’s a tried and tested recipe many times over for me. You can’t go wrong with Elizabeth David :-)

      Reply
  4. Julia Levy 4 May 2012

    Sorry, for the dozy here, is that 2 tomatoes that weight 1/2lb and 2 potatoes that weigh 3/4 lb?

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 4 May 2012

      Elizabeth David’s measurements are in pounds, so 1/2 lb tomatoes and 3/4 lb potatoes, which I find is roughly 2 medium tomatoes and 2 medium potatoes respectively. It’s only a soup so you don’t have to be too exact about the weight of the vegetables. Hope this makes sense :-)

      Reply
      • Julia Levy 4 May 2012

        LOL yup, brain unscrambled now!

        Reply
  5. Anita Menon 5 May 2012

    I wish I used my books as faithfully as you use yours. The soup looks just the kind that one wants to dig in after a hard day’s work and not to mention the wonderful bread ( without the bacon, ofcourse, for me :-))

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 6 May 2012

      Some books, I am very faithful to, whether for just one recipe or many more. This is a really nourishing soup which I always turn to :-)

      Reply
  6. Madonna 5 May 2012

    I love tomato soup. I just heard Jacque Pépin say there is no substitute for a leek, not an onion, shallot, or scallion; nothing tastes like a leek. I am so making this soup.

    Your photos are striking. I wish I could attain just a minimal of what you have done. They are really art.

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 6 May 2012

      Oh thank you, so much :-) I’m glad you enjoy my photos.

      If you love tomato soup, this is a nice variation – you can still taste the tomatoes but it is a little more filling with the potatoes. I think Jacque Pépin is correct to say that there is no substitute for a leek, although I do sometimes replace it with onions which give a stronger taste. My main hesitation with leeks is, what do you with all of the beautiful green leaves?? To simply throw it away seems such a waste …

      Reply
      • Madonna 29 May 2012

        Just as a follow-up, I made this soup. It is delicious. As far as the leek greens, my sister uses it in veg stock so we don’t waste any of it.

        Reply
        • eat, little bird 29 May 2012

          Thank you so much for popping back to let me know that you made this soup! I’m so happy that you enjoyed it :-)

          And that is indeed a great way of using leek greens – will keep that in mind for next time. Sometimes I can find leeks sold without the greens, but if I am buying them from them markets, they inevitably come with green leaves, roots, and all. Merci!

          Reply
  7. The Food Sage 6 May 2012

    I love the soup recipes that are starting to do the rounds now that the weather is cooling in Sydney. I realise you are in Switzerland, but we seem to be in sync! This recipe sounds like a good mid-week swifty! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 6 May 2012

      LOL!! Hubby has requested that we always have some soup in the fridge, whether for a light dinner or for lunch if he happens to be at home. I love that they are simple to make and can be an instant meal. Some of them are so simple that I’m not sure about blogging about them … goes to show how far I have come since I first picked up Elizabeth David’s book!

      Reply
  8. What a gorgeous soup. I love tomato soup but have never thought to combine tomato and potato. This is something I am definitely going to try as it’s now soup weather here.

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 6 May 2012

      Thanks, Jennifer! Tomatoes and potatoes are a lovely combination and I often find I have this pairing in my soups. I hope you will get around to trying this wonderful recipe :-)

      Reply
  9. Carole 7 May 2012

    Since I made your delicious cheddar and bacon bread yesterday and had some leftover tomatoes and leeks to use, I decided to go ahead and try your soup too! Yummmm! Really really good, lovely flavors!
    I served the whole thing just like you did with the slice of bread on the side (except that I used cilantro instead of parsley since that’s what I had but look-wise they are identical :)
    I added a dollop of sour cream on top too because I just looove sour cream. Anyway thanks for another great recipe and the beautiful picture that inspired me to try it as soon as possible.

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 7 May 2012

      Oh how wonderful that I also inspired you to try this lovely soup! It’s a fairly simple sounding soup so I wasn’t sure if it would tickle anyone else’s fancy, so I’m really happy to hear that you tried this soup and loved it :-) I like your idea of serving it would some sour cream – it would go nicely with the slight tang from the tomatoes.

      Thank you for giving these two recipes a try! My blog is mostly about recipes which I love, and if others can find enjoyment from the same recipes, I’m really happy :-)

      Reply
  10. I had no idea who Elizabeth David first read your… :O)
    This soup is the most comforting thing I can imagine at this time.. you’re great, as usual…..

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 9 May 2012

      Elizabeth David was a very influentual food writer after World War II, and her books are a great read, invaluable in my kitchen :-)

      Reply
  11. LP @dishclips 10 May 2012

    This soup looks so comforting.

    Reply
  12. […] was quickly pushed aside, I did find that the Vietnamese pistou was delicious stirred into some Cream of Tomato & Potato Soup. This Vietnamese pistou is definitely an exciting way to introduce Vietnamese flavours to other […]

    Reply
  13. Belle 8 April 2013

    I’m a burner of tinned soup kind of cook, so I’m not sure how this is going to turn out…

    I’m trying it nonetheless, as it looks great. I think I’m going to replace the leeks with onions though (cough, only because I haven’t got any, cough).

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 12 April 2013

      You can definitely substitute the leeks for some brown onions. I hope you enjoyed this soup!

      Reply
  14. Arlie 16 September 2013

    I had few potatoes and Tomatoes, and only that in the fridge. Also, I live with a terrible-cook boyfriend and am terrible myself at cooking. We’ve been having foodstuff from the supermarkets for months now, so I thought I’ll give this one a try only to find that I am not after all that bad a cook. Thanks a lot, it’s a treat and specially when you get to have home cooked stuff after a long time!

    Reply
    • eat, little bird 17 September 2013

      You’re more than welcome! I’m glad that you enjoyed this recipe. Vegetable soups like these are quite easy to make and, once you get the hang of it, the combinations and varieties are endless. Pre-made meals from the supermarket are good once in a while when you can’t be bothered to cook or you’re stuck for time, but nothing beats home-cooking. I hope this recipe will inspire you to cook more – you’re obviously a better cook than you think you are :-)

      Reply
      • Arlie 3 September 2014

        Can you please suggest a few other recipes which would be suitable for beginners to try and cook? Thanks already!

        Reply
  15. […] This recipe can be found at Eat, Little Bird […]

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