Sunday 15 December 2019

Ladled with Love: Summer Soups from Rachel Allen

Unlike winter, summer's soups are not designed 
to fill hungry tummies but be 
tasty, light and refreshing.

Rachel Allen says summer soups should be light and refreshing.
Rachel Allen says summer soups should be light and refreshing.
Summer vegetable soup.

Rachel Allen

I take such joy in making soups. 
I love the process of tasting and refining the soup until you have just the right flavour and the texture that you want. I rarely make a complicated, multi-step soup.

I like to make simple soups that taste fabulous, are easy to put together, but still ask you for a little care and attention to ensure they're at their best.

Summer's soups are a world (or half a world) apart from winter's. I'll have no thick, rich broth full of sausages, chickpeas and kale. Nor will I have a hearty beef stew masquerading as a soup. Summer is the time for the light and fresh, for an expression of the season's bounty. I want a soup I can eat just for sheer pleasure - not as an affordable form of central heating!

When the weather is cooperating, 
I think a chilled soup can be quite special. The classic chilled soup is a tomato gazpacho, the Spanish favourite. I have featured it in the pages of this magazine before, and there is also a recipe for it in my book, Home Cooking.

This white gazpacho recipe, opposite, though also Spanish, is quite different. It's a deceptively simple recipe. The combination of almonds and garlic, 
with just the right amount of acidity, creates a soup far more than the sum 
of its few parts. The creamy colour looks beautiful when it is decorated with a few drops of golden olive oil.

Rachel Allen says summer soups should be light and refreshing.

The cucumber soup is a refreshing dish. Rich with yoghurt and cream, the flavour of the cucumber needs only depth from the garlic and acid from the vinegar. It would make an elegant starter for a party.

Of course, not all soups in the summer must be chilled. I like to make the roasted tomato soup as a way of teasing out sweetness from early tomatoes. This soup is good with some chopped basil, but, if you've some basil pesto, a drizzle of it in the bowl would be delicious.


Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

Serves 4-6.

You will need:

1kg (2lbs) ripe tomatoes (about

10 large tomatoes)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 sprig of fresh basil, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, to serve

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of sugar

150g (5oz) onion, chopped

425ml (¾ pint) of chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8.

Cut the ripe tomatoes into quarters, then in half again, removing the little core. Spread them out in a large roasting tray, add the peeled garlic cloves, the sprig of fresh basil, drizzle over three tablespoons of the olive oil and season generously with the salt, the freshly ground black pepper and the sugar.

Put the tray in the hot oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and a little browned. Discard the sprig of basil at the end of cooking.

As the tomatoes roast, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan on a medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 8-10 minutes until soft. When the onion is cooked, add the tray of roasted tomatoes, along with the garlic and all of the juices. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, whichever you are using. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, freshly ground black pepper or sugar if necessary.

Remove from the heat, then liquidise the soup in a blender or food processor until it is completely smooth.

If you’d like a very smooth soup, you can sieve the liquid at this point. It’s not essential to do this, but I usually do.

Put the soup back in the pan. You can add more stock at this point, if you’d like a thinner soup. To serve, reheat the soup, divide it between bowls and sprinkle over the chopped fresh basil.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer vegetable soup.

Serves 2.

You will need:

550ml (1 pt) chicken or vegetable stock (home-made or very good quality, if possible)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g (2oz) broad beans, fresh or frozen

50g (2oz) carrot, cut into 2½cm (1in) batons

50g (2oz) courgette, cut into 2½cm

(1in) batons

50g (2oz) peas, fresh or frozen

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon mint, chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the chicken stock or the vegetable  stock, whichever you are using, in  a saucepan over a medium heat, season with the salt and the freshly ground black pepper, and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon of salt to another saucepan of water, put it on a medium heat and bring to the boil.

Add the fresh or frozen broad  beans, whichever you are using, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain. When the beans are cool enough to handle,  use your fingers to peel them and discard the skins.

Next, add the carrot batons to the pot of simmering stock, and cook them for five minutes. Add the courgette batons, cook for a further five minutes, then add the peeled broad beans. Two minutes later, add the fresh or frozen peas, whichever you are using. Two minutes later, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sliced spring onion, the chopped parsley and the chopped mint. Divide between bowls and drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil, then serve.

Chilled cucumber soup

Serves 4-6.

You will need:

1 large cucumber, peeled and grated

200ml (7fl oz) cream

200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Small handful of parsley or chervil,

roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed,

or finely grated

1 tablespoon gherkins, finely grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, set aside 4 teaspoons of the grated cucumber. Then mix the remaining cucumber together with the cream, the natural yoghurt, the white wine vinegar, the chopped parsley or chervil, whichever you’re using, the crushed or grated garlic, whichever you’re using, the finely grated gherkins, and season with the salt and the freshly ground black pepper. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

To serve, divide the soup between small chilled bowls and sprinkle some of the reserved grated cucumber over the top of each one.

White gazpacho

Serves 4.

You will need:

100g (3½oz) blanched almonds

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed,

 or finely grated

250ml (9fl oz) ice-cold water

25g (1oz) (about 1 slice) white bread, crusts removed and torn into chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whizz the blanched almonds in a food processor for 2 minutes, then add the crushed or grated garlic, whichever you’re using, and 2 tablespoons of

the iced water, and whizz for a further  2 minutes.

Add the chunks of white bread, the olive oil and the remaining ice-cold water, then whizz for another 3 minutes, or until the gazpacho is smooth.

Stir in one tablespoon of the sherry vinegar and season to taste with the salt and the freshly ground black pepper. Taste again for acidity. You may need

to add more sherry vinegar.

Divide between small bowls or large glasses, drizzle ½ teaspoon of olive oil into each bowl and add a small grinding of black pepper. 

Rachel recommends

The Moro Restaurant cookbooks have long been an inspiration for me and for so many other cooks. Their food is a combination of Spanish and North African, with various other influences that make it uniquely their own. The restaurant itself is in London and has been successful for over 17 years now. It remains a destination of pilgrimage for food lovers from across the UK and Ireland, and further afield. A few years ago, they opened a sister restaurant called Morito, which has similar, but distinctive food, and serves only small plates. The Morito cookbook was recently released, allowing home and professional cooks alike to see the secrets behind their beetroot borani and crispy chickpeas, among so much more.

Morito, by Samuel and Samantha Clark, is published by Ebury Press.

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