Keep your cool this summer with refreshing Vichyssoise, says Simon Hopkinson, and pair it with freshly baked focaccia.
Makes 2 small focaccia
1 x 7g packet of dried yeast
750g strong white flour—plus a little extra
500ml lukewarm water
15g fine salt—plus a little extra Maldon salt, to finish
2tbspn olive oil—plus 3–4 more, to finish
Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the yeast together with the water in the bowl of an electric mixer until dissolved. Stir in half the flour, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until risen and frothy. Add the remaining flour, salt, sugar and oil and, using a dough hook, mix together until well blended and slightly sticky; if too sticky, add a little more flour. Knead slowly for at least five minutes. Tip out onto a floured surface and divide in two. By hand, further knead and shape into two balls.
Place each in a round, lightly greased cake tin (about 20cm by 4cm (8in by 1½in)) and, using your fingers, push the dough right up to the edge of the tins, while leaving it slightly thicker towards the outside.
Place the tins on top of the stove and then pre-heat the oven to 240˚C/475˚F/gas mark 9. As the oven heats up, its rising warmth will aid the rising of the dough for a second time.
After about an hour, and once the dough has risen to the top of the tins, make many deep indent-ations with the tips of your fingers. Liberally trickle the surface with the extra olive oil and generously sprinkle with flaky sea salt and a grind of black pepper.
Slide the focaccia into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6 and cooking for
a further 15 minutes or until the surfaces are golden and well crusted.
Remove and leave to cool in their tins for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
Vichyssoise with anchovy toasts
When preparing a cold soup such as this one, which usually employs a dairy fat to commence the cooking, it has always bothered me that, once the Vichyssoise is well chilled, the butter used will return to its natural state; that is, detectable as faintly greasy cold flecks suspended within a texture that should be silky smooth on the tongue.
To use olive oil as an alter-native to temper this gives the soup an entirely incorrect flavour and, conversely, a neutral oil (such as sunflower) offers no flavour at all.
Ultimately, a particular taste of a fine Vichyssoise apart from the flavour of leek and potato, naturally should be sublimely lactic. The relatively novel ‘spreadable’ butter, therefore, is ideal to use here: a dairy flavour, but remaining supple when cold. Mind you, I wouldn’t let it near my morning toast.
For the Vichyssoise
2 heaped tbspn ‘spreadable’
butter (Lurpak, for preference)
1kg leeks, trimmed of most of the green parts, sliced and well washed
500g floury potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and well rinsed under cold running water
Half a tspn salt
500ml light chicken stock
Freshly ground white pepper
250ml whipping cream
1tbspn snipped chives
For the anchovy toasts
8–10 salted anchovy fillets, cut into small pieces
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3–4 shakes Tabasco sauce
A squeeze of lemon juice
8 thin slices focaccia (recipe above)
To make the Vichyssoise, melt the butter in a large pan over a moderate heat and add the leeks, potatoes and salt. Stir together until the vegetables are thoroughly glistening with butter, then turn the heat down to very low indeed.
Put a lid on the pan and leave to quietly stew for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Do not, on any account, allow the vege-tables to colour; a heat-diffuser is most useful here.
Once this is done, remove the lid, pour in the stock and add a generous grinding of pepper. Bring up to a simmer, cook for a further 15 minutes, then add the milk; briefly heat through, but refrain from boiling or the milk may coagulate. Liquidise until very smooth indeed, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Allow to cool until room temperature then whisk in the cream and check for seasoning.
Chill for at least two hours or more, to be sure that it’s ice cold; there is nothing worse than a cold soup which is not a soup that is cold. To serve, decant into chilled soup bowls and sprinkle with chives. Hand the anchovy toasts at table.
To make them, put the anchovies, butter, Tabasco and lemon juice into the bowl of a small food processor, purée until very smooth and then decant into a small bowl. Toast the sliced focaccia and judiciously spread with the anchovy butter.
Who can resist fresh summer crab?
A taste of spring.