Sunday, August 19, 2012

Better than the sum of the parts - Soup

I love soups and firmly believe they are as useful in summer as in winter, especially a summer where the weather is so variable you never know if you will want something light and refreshing or hearty and warming.

Soup is so versatile and it is so easy to change the character of a soup by the garnishes. A dollop of yogurt into a vegetable soup will give freshness where some shredded pieces of cooked chicken or chunks of cooked sausage will make a more substantial meal. You can accompany a soup with delicate crackers or buttery chunks of warm garlic bread according to your mood. Cheese scones are another favourite accompaniment of mine for a lunchtime or light supper soup.

Today's soup is one I make when I (finally) get a glut of courgettes in my small vegetable garden. It is useful for using up the ones that hid from you and are now a little larger than ideal. The courgette glut is often coincident with my small crop of potatoes and again this is a good way of using up the ones that will not store because the slugs nibbled them or you pushed the fork in when you were harvesting them.

I rarely follow recipes for soups but do look at them for ideas.The soup below was made with butter, onion, potato, courgette, vegetable stock powder and fresh thyme, and is garnished with fresh soft cheese.

Working in roughly the following proportions of 1 medium onion, 2 medium potatoes and 750g courgette

  • Chop the onion coarsely and  peel and roughly dice the raw potato. 
  • Gently cook the onion and potato in a saucepan with a knob of butter until they start to soften.
  • Then add coarsely chopped  courgette and cook a little longer until the courgette is just about cooked through.
  • Stir in a small amount of stock powder or home made stock if you have some and add salt to taste.
  • Add water to cover the vegetables.
  • Simmer gently until the potato is cooked through.
  • Blend to a purée with a stick blender adding more water or some milk to achieve the consistency you prefer. Different varieties of potato will vary in how much they thicken a soup.
  • Just before serving stir in fresh thyme leaves or another herb such as parsley or chervil.

Garnish your soup how you like but any of the following should work well with courgette:

  • crumbled feta cheese and mild chilli flakes
  • a swirl of lemon scented olive oil
  • toasted pine nuts
  • crumbled mild blue cheese
  • crumbled crispy bacon
  • a few succulent prawns

Soup was one of the first things I cooked in my domestic science class at school and it was a revelation in what soup should be. I had previously judged soup by what came out of packets or tins. After that one class I could never look at packet soup quite the same again, it just wasn't soup any more. I still remember my absolute horror when several years later my husband introduced me to is 'Spag Bol' recipe which required a packet of powdered oxtail soup in the mix.

Most soups will reheat well, so a bit of effort on the initial batch can keep you in near instant gratification for many more meals hence. And for those of you with a vegetable garden that refuses to produce a good portion of any one vegetable at a time I urge you to try and make your own minestrone. Never again will you wonder what to do with 1 courgette, a crooked carrot and 2 french beans. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. That does look particularly delicious, and I'm not really a fan of soups. And now I've finally realised why I've always considered minestrone and expensive soup (having to buy little bits of all those different veg) when actually it's just perfect for gardeners!