The former kingdom of Savoy borders the Alps and includes Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Appropriately, this hearty soup is creamy white and full of root vegetables, bolstered with plenty of cheese. The local tomme de Savoie is an aged, slightly piquant cow cheese, good for cooking as well as enjoying with bread; Gruyère can take its place. Serve the soup as a vegetarian main course, in generous bowls and accompanied by country bread.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 turnips (about 12 ounces/330 grams total)
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces/330 grams)
  • 2 large potatoes (about 1 pound/450 grams total), sliced
  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams/1 ounce butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 to 5 leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds/675 grams total), white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups/500 milliliters/16 fluid ounces water
  • 2 1/2 cups/625 milliliters/1 pint milk
  • 12 to 16 fried croûtes made with a slim baguette, sliced and fried in 4 tablespoons/60 grams/2 ounces butter
  • 5 ounces/140 grams tomme de Savoie or Gruyère, rind discarded and then thinly sliced
  • Soup pot

Peel the turnips, quarter and slice them also. Peel the celery root, cut it in 8 wedges and slice them crosswise. Peel the potatoes, cut them in small chunks, and keep them in cold water. All vegetables should be cut about 1/2-inch/1.25-centimeters thick.

Melt the butter in the soup pot and sauté the onion over medium heat until soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the turnip, celery root, and leeks with salt and pepper, and press a piece of aluminum foil on top. Cover and sweat the vegetables over low heat until they are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and stir them into the soup with the measured water. Cover the pot again and simmer until the vegetables start to get tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Bring the milk to a boil in a separate pan, add it to the soup and taste for seasoning. Cover and continue simmering gently until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. If the milk is boiled, it will curdle. Taste again and adjust seasoning. The soup can be kept a day or two in the refrigerator and the flavor will mellow.

To finish, fry the croûtes. Reheat the soup if necessary. Put the croûtes in warm soup bowls and top with the cheese slices. Pour over the soup and serve at once so the cheese melts and the croûtes remain crisp.

photo by France Ruffenach
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.