This delicious leek and potato soup is one of the great classics of French cuisine.
This is a simple yet elegant puréed soup which is perfect for warm or cold weather.
Nourishing & healthy
Leeks belong to the onion and garlic family and have their own distinct taste, being milder and sweeter than onions. They are nutritious as they are a good source of vitamins A, C & K, minerals, and high in dietary fibre.
Potatoes are high in potassium and vitamin C. They are also a great pantry staple, here are some tips to keep them fresh.
Whats great about this recipe
The delicate and slightly sweet leeks balance perfectly with the potatoes, while the stock adds wonderful depth of flavour.
The potatoes make it thick and creamy so small servings are perfect with a piece of warm bread. It can easily be made ahead, making it perfect as an appetizer for a dinner party, for a light lunch, or in a thermos to take to work.
What is Parmentier?
Potage Parmentier is named after Antoine Parmentier, the French agronomist who campaigned during the reign of Louis XVI, to have the potato declared a safe and edible vegetable. At the time, potatoes were banned in France as they were considered to be poisonous, and only suitable for hog feed.
Parmentier was already familiar with the vegetable having survived on a diet of mainly potatoes while being held captive by the Prussians during the Seven Year War.
On his return to France, he initiated a campaign to introduce them as a delicious and healthy alternative to bread. After submitting a paper on the topic, in 1772, the Paris Faculty of Medicine, declared the potato as fit for human consumption.
However, no-one was interested in potatoes, so Parmentier tried a few tactics. He would host lavish dinners and invite Paris’s high society and distinguished men of science, such as Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier, to dine on dishes mainly made with potatoes.
As potatoes gained favour with the rich, he targeted the very poor by cultivating potatoes on land given to him by the King. The crop was guarded by soldiers till dusk, and when they left, the needy would help themselves. Slowly more and more people acquired a taste for potatoes.
Then came the famine in the cold winter of 1788-89, and Parmentier opened soup kitchens across Paris offering bowls of comforting and nourishing potato soup to the needy. Potatoes eventually became so popular, they were declared the food of the revolution.
The name Parmentier is now associated with several other French potato dishes such as Potato Parmentier, Brandade de Morue Parmentier and Hachis Parmentier.
How to choose & prepare leeks
- When selecting leeks, choose those that are fresh, crisp and undamaged with dark green leaves. Smaller leeks are usually sweeter and more tender.
- Cut off and discard the roots and the tough green leaves. You will only need the white and light green parts of the leek.
- Rinse the leeks well under cold water to remove any grit.
- Chop the leeks into thin rings.
Waxy or starchy potatoes
All purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold or Désirée are best as they are not too waxy or starchy (floury). Starchy potatoes will thicken the soup and make it unsuitable for freezing.
How to make it
- Melt the butter in a saucepan/ Dutch oven and add the garlic. Cook for around a minute till the garlic softens taking care not to let it burn.
- Prepare the leeks and lightly sauté in butter till softened, for around 10 minutes.
- Add the cut potatoes, thyme, bay leaf and stock, then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, till the potatoes are tender.
- Discard the bay leaf, transfer to a blender and purée the soup.
- Pour into a serving bowl and stir in the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, according to taste. Garnish with chopped chives, parsley or basil.
You could include an onion in the second stage and cook it with the leeks. I prefer not to use an onion as there is already a hint of it in the stock.
Substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock to make it vegetarian.
How to serve it
Garnish with some chopped chives, a sprig of parsley or some basil, and a piece of warm bread.
This soup can be enjoyed hot, or cold (Vichyssoise) in the warmer months. To serve it cold, chill for around 4 hours.
Goes well with
How to store it
Transfer to an airtight container and chill for up to 3 days.
This soup can be frozen without the cream. Transfer to a ziplock bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, and reheat on the stovetop on medium heat till warm, then stir in the cream (if using).
More Soup recipes
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Potage Parmentier – Leek & Potato Soup
- 2 cloves garlic peeled & smashed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 medium leeks
- 3 medium potatoes medium wax/starch, peeled and cut into small cubes
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 small bay leaf
- 4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock (warm)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- salt to taste
- a pinch freshly ground black pepper to taste
- a handful fresh parsley leaves or basil
- Wash the leeks to remove any soil, then trim off the end and the greener section, leaving the white & light green parts of the leek. Slice the remaining leek into thin rings.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven on low heat, and add the garlic. When garlic begins to soften (after 1 minute), add the sliced leeks and mix well. Then cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Pour in the stock, add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and cook for a further 15 minutes till the potatoes are tender.
- Discard the bay leaf, and blend the soup till it is smooth.
- Stir in the cream (optional), taste and add salt if required and some black pepper, then garnish with fresh parsley or basil.
- To serve cold, chill for around 4 hours.
- Select all purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold or Désirée as they are not too waxy or starchy (floury).
- Transfer to an airtight container and chill for up to 3 days.
- This soup can be frozen without the cream. Transfer to a ziplock bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, and reheat on the stovetop on medium heat till warm, then stir in the cream (if using).