Monday, 9 June 2008

Luminous soup!

This soup wasn't quite as neon-coloured as this in reality. It must have been the bright sun at lunchtime (sorry Kiwi Sis - I know it's pretty chilly with you, but you were out in the paddling pool while we were huddled in our big jerseys). With a nice run of warm days recently, my mind has turned to chilled summer soups. Summer soups have to be adaptable in our house so that they can be cold for me and hot for The Scientist. This is one I've tended to make for solitary lunches, but it's very nice at both ends of the temperature scale. It's a good showcase for the seasonal wonder that is British asparagus, and is very healthy, too. I do often swirl some plain or Greek yogurt into it but today I added cottage cheese, which is surprisingly nice in soup. I got the recipe (reproduced below) from the Sunday Time Style supplement about a year or two ago, and make sure it comes out every spring. I have some other chilled (or not) soups planned for the next few weeks, so will keep this theme coming.

We bought some new garden furniture at the weekend in the hope that we could eat outside with Eco Sis and Bro - but of course it wasn't warm enough that particular evening. So we had our inaugural al fresco meal tonight, courtesy of The Scientist. He fried halloumi, toasted some pitta, and made a little lime vinaigrette (mix juice and zest of two limes, a dash of oil, and a crackle of pepper). We had lots of salads left over from the weekend and it all came together to a very nice little meal. The cats love it when we're in and out of the patio door (and we love it too, after living in a flat with no direct access to the very overlooked garden for four years). Pooky is a little worried about the new furniture, and tends to flee when he sees us coming out holding anything, but he soon settled down when he realised that dinner wasn't going to do anything bad to him. He played some excellent football with some biodegradable plant pots he found lying around, segueing briefly and effortlessly into volleyball, and then abruptly needed a lie down on the patio. The photo's not his best but he's not too sure about the camera either - most stuff makes Pook go wide eyed, poor little boy.

Asparagus Soup (from the Sunday Times)
Serves 4 (apparently, but the batch I made will only do two for main course sized portions)

1½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
500g (2 bunches) asparagus, trimmed
500ml good chicken stock [I use vegetable, of course]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp low-fat crème fraîche [I don't normally bother, but sometimes use yogurt instead]
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Heat a saucepan over a medium-low flame. Once hot, add the oil, followed by the onion and garlic. Cover, reduce the heat to low and gently fry for 15 minutes or until the onion is meltingly soft and golden.

Meanwhile, wash the trimmed asparagus in a sink filled with cold water, then cut off the tips and set aside. Continue by finely slicing the asparagus stems; the pieces should be roughly the size of peas. As soon as the onions are soft, add the stock and bring up to a full rolling boil. Add the sliced asparagus stems and boil for about 10 minutes or until they are soft.

While the soup is cooking, drop the asparagus tips into a saucepan of salted boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes or until tender, then drain into a colander and cool under cold running water. Set aside. [I find that if you've made this in advance and are reheating it, you can just cook the asparagus tips in the soup rather than boil some water separately]

Purée the soup, season to taste and transfer to a clean pan or bowl — depending on whether you are serving it hot or cold. Add the asparagus tips. If you are serving it hot, gently reheat; if cold, cover and chill. In either case, when serving, add a swirl of crème fraîche to each portion of soup. Garnish with the chives.


Johanna said...

this sounds lovely - although the pic does look a little radioactive :-)

I am terrible at experimenting with chilled soups even in the heat of summer as E doesn't like them - I am a little wary of them but I feel I need to try them a bit more

Lysy said...

It is rather alarming, isn't it?! I feel the same about chilled soups - I get on better with them when they're just put in front of me. At least they mainly heat up well if they aren't so good! Perhaps there's something about British alpha males which makes them feel strongly about soup being hot?