It felt like the last day of summer in my garden this morning with the sun shining brightly through the chilly air and the title of that iconic TV series, The Last of the Summer Wine, came to mind as I surveyed the last of my summer mint and wondered what to do with it. It’s been a sad year for herbs. Last year I enjoyed a wonderful harvest of large healthy clumps of oregano, parsley, mint (garden and Moroccan), thyme and other herbs at the end of summer and successfully dried some of them to enjoy their fragrance and flavour throughout the winter. But following the wettest summer in UK in a hundred years, there are only some ragged clumps of herbs this year. The lack of sun has, of course, affected their flavour too. However, there was a pretty good amount of garden mint to salvage and I decided to put that into a soup.
I had two large organic courgettes (300g) and as I often sprinkle chopped fresh mint over courgettes, I knew it was a good combination.
In the freezer was a container of my son’s homemade chicken stock, left there since he and Lyndsey briefly lived with me in June. He’d said I should use it up and I used one lot last night to make a risotto. I have to admit that Jonathan’s chicken stock is infinitely better than mine. It’s so rich in flavour and truly delicious so I knew it would add a fantastic flavour to my courgettes and mint. (I also need to ask him exactly what he does to make his stock taste so good!)
I popped the lump of frozen chicken stock into a pan and heated till it had thawed and bubbled up. Meanwhile, I chopped half a medium onion and gently softened it in another pan with some olive oil and butter.
Don’t brown the onion, just soften it. Then add the courgettes, which you’ve first chopped into fairly small pieces.
Soften the courgettes, stirring regularly so they are evenly cooked, for about 10 minutes. You want them to soften but not break down into a mush. Then add the hot chicken stock.
Bring to a boil and simmer for just 10-15 minutes. You want to keep some of the freshness of the courgettes and not boil the flavour out. Then blitz with a hand blender. I transferred my soup to a jug to do this so as not to ruin my nice new saucepan!
Return to the pan and add some finely chopped fresh mint – about 1 tablespoon when chopped. I also added in a couple of large leaves as basil as I like basil with courgettes and basil and mint go well together. Check seasoning. The stock was well flavoured so I didn’t need much more salt or pepper. Now your soup is ready to eat straight away or to keep for later.
It was a very quick soup to make; just minutes to prepare and cook. I made some little ‘cheat’ croutons to go with it for lunch. I had a nice fresh traditional flute from Paul and toasted a couple of slices and then drenched them in some olive oil.
I spooned some of the hot soup in a bowl. Carefully laid the toast on top and then sprinkled over some freshly grated Parmesan. I finished it off with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little sprig of mint.
I thought it looked pretty good – and it was really, really delicious. A lovely depth from the excellent chicken stock but a gorgeous freshness from the courgettes and fragrant herbs. It truly was a last taste of summer soup! But luckily there’s some left over for tomorrow’s lunch too …