I imagine some of you are thinking, that doesn’t sound much like a winter soup when at last, some semblance of winter has arrived in UK. But then, I’m not someone who likes winter: all that cold and wet, long dark days. I’m a summer person; perhaps I was longing for summer when I decided to make it. But even I welcome a touch a real winter at last; perhaps now it’s here we can get it over and done with! The winter so far has been very mild with lots of rain that has left many in the north of England flooded out of them homes. It must be a dreadful thing to experience. Here in London, it’s meant little more than always going out with an umbrella. But in the last couple of days the temperature has dropped to freezing; ice has had to be scraped off the car windscreen and more robust boots worn. Yesterday was glorious, a perfect winter’s day: crisp, cold air but a beautiful blue sky and beams of sunshine. This morning, I woke to see a dusting of snow laying across the garden: light, like a dusting of icing sugar shaken gently from height on to a pandoro.
I’ve been making soups for weeks, packaged up into individual portions into the freezer, ready to come out a lunchtime. All my favourites: broccoli, roasted butternut squash & tomato, cauliflower. This morning, walking back home from a coffee and croissant in Paul, I thought I’d pop into the local M&S Simply Food and buy some vegetables to make a new soup for lunch. And when I saw the plump, emerald green, organic courgettes, it just seemed like a nice plan.
I often add basil to courgettes; they marry well. I also like a touch of lemon zest, and of course plenty of good fruity extra virgin olive oil. So it all went into the soup. It’s a quick soup to make and can be made a little more silky and luxurious with the addition of a dash of cream at the end.
I decided to use 2 shallots rather than onion for the soup base; a milder taste with the courgettes. I chopped them finely and then gently softened them in some extra virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, I chopped 1 small-medium potato (130g) to give the soup a little more body, and added that to the shallot. Then I chopped 3 large courgettes (300g) into smallish diced pieces and added those to the pan. I seasoned with salt and pepper.
I cooked this all gently, stirring frequently so the vegetables didn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for about 10-15 minutes, until they were well softened and becoming slightly coloured. This was to get the best flavour from the courgettes. Then I added a few chopped basil leaves and the zest of about half a lemon. I stirred again and added 500ml water (or a light stock), stirred and brought to the boil, then put the lid on and turned down to a low simmer for 10 minutes. You don’t need much longer than this because the vegetables are pretty much cooked already after the long, gentle frying.
Then I turned off the heat and blitzed the soup with a hand-held blender until smooth. Check seasoning.
I served it with a swirl of single cream in the middle and drizzled over more olive oil. I’d bought a gorgeous new sourdough loaf from Ruben’s Bakehouse this morning which, with some good French butter, made a perfect accompaniment to my lunch.
It was delicious. It had a really good flavour with a nice hint of the basil and lemon. It might not have been summer but it was wonderfully cheerful and vibrant. It was beautifully smooth too. I’d left it fairly thick as I think you get a better flavour than thin soups. There’s more for tomorrow or the freezer. This amount only makes about 2-3 portions so if you’re cooking for more, double up the measurements.