Friday, 24 August 2007
A Souper Summer
Summer and soup are not two words that are usually spoken in the same sentence. Even in this summer of discontent here in the U.K. I would assume that you, like me, have not been taking to the soup like you would in the winter months. People associate soup as the perfect food to fill and warm after a long winter day in the freezing cold. Therefore, we all tend to turn to lighter dishes in the summer, moving from soups to smoothies and casseroles to salads.
Of course there are many fabulous soups that utilise the glut of summer ingredients around. I'm thinking of a flavour and health packed minestrone. Or a garlic hot gazpacho. Perhaps a chilled almond soup. Thinking about it, there are soups-a-plenty to be guzzled during the hotter months.
Soups are a perfect platform for experimenting with ingredients and flavours. As long as you don't go too weird, even the ugliest of soups that have been 'thrown' together can usually be saved with a quick blitz in the blender. I'm always thinking of new soup ideas when the list of available seasonal ingredients becomes available. And yesterday was no exception.
With a glut of courgettes freshly plucked from my father-in-law's allotment, and a few new Bramley apples from the greengrocer, I had a combination in my mind that would either be an embarrassing disaster or a summer success story. Thankfully it was the latter. Even with an intruding sharp Bramley in there, balancing out that sharpness with a strong salty Cheddar and a punch of fresh mint works perfectly. Each flavour needs to be balanced so that you taste each ingredient rather than one overpowering. Serve it hot or cold. It needs to be fresh, subtle and gentle, a bit like a British summer. And this makes for a very good summer soup. Now we just need the sun...
Courgette, Bramley and Cheddar Soup
4-5 small courgettes or 2 large, halved and sliced
5 Bramley apples, peeled and cubed
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 clove of garlic
A large handful of fresh mint, chopped
500ml vegetable stock or water
250g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 - In a large pan, heat the oil then add the courgettes, apples, celery and garlic. Gently cook, stirring regularly until some of the water evaporates and the vegetables and fruit collapse. Add the fresh mint.
2 - Add the stock or water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
3 - Pour the soup into a blender along with the cheese. Blitz thoroughly until smooth. It should be the palest of greens.
4 - Pour back into the pan and taste for seasoning. You may want to add more cheese, but go gentle on the salt. Serve in bowls with an optional swirl of yoghurt and a sprinkle of freshly chopped mint. This soup can be served chilled, it works perfectly with either.