Late sum­mer slurps

Anna Jones’s soups

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones

Most years, soups – like pies, stews and crum­bles – are ban­ished for the sum­mer be­fore I cook them in an ex­cited flurry about the same time as I stop wear­ing san­dals.

In win­ter, I find com­fort in deep bowls of veg­eta­bles that don’t re­quire chew­ing. But sum­mer soups are dif­fer­ent. I want fresh­ness, crunch, and zippy flavours. So many sum­mer soups are cold, and while I do like a cold soup, I have to say I only crave it when the weather is blis­ter­ing. I al­most al­ways want some­thing warm at din­ner time.

These late sum­mer soups fo­cus on light­ness and bright­ness. Some days it’s a sum­mery dal of red lentils, spiked with a heap of turmeric and fin­ished with a brave amount of lemon juice. Other days it’s a quick to­mato soup, cooked with gar­lic, no onion, the vines kept on un­til it’s blended and then fin­ished with a lot of good olive oil.

When I do crave a cold soup, I pile the blender with a cou­ple of scooped-out av­o­ca­dos, a head of fen­nel, a cou­ple of spring onions, the juice of a lemon and some sum­mer herbs, blended with a good hand­ful of ice and driz­zled again with good oil when it’s served.

There are, of course, gaz­pa­cho soups too, my favourite be­ing a white one that’s made with al­monds, grapes and bread soaked in vine­gar.

This week though, it was a warm co­conut soup with one of the fresh­est, clean­est flavour pair­ings I know: lemon­grass and lime leaves. The next one has been made from the hero of the hour: pa­pery husked corn on the cob (not least be­cause its cur­rently my lit­tle boy’s favourite veg­etable) teamed up with green chilli, cour­gettes and crisp let­tuce. The re­sult: a soup lay­ered with tex­ture and fresh­ness that cooks in an in­stant.

Co­conut broth with buck­wheat noo­dles, tofu and lime (on the cover)

There are some evenings when I feel like I’ve ab­sorbed the day. The clean white of this broth whis­pers that all away. The co­conut milk calms and soothes, the chilli boosts and wak­ens, and the lemon­grass and lime leaves bring an un­ri­valled cit­rus fresh­ness.

I pick up bun­dles of lemon­grass and lime leaves when­ever I see them and pop them into the freezer – they keep well and can be used from frozen. I use 100% buck­wheat flour noo­dles – some are mixed with nor­mal flour, which are eas­ier to cook; if you use the 100% ones, make sure you don’t over­cook them and re­fresh them in lots of cold wa­ter im­me­di­ately.

Serves 4

21 veg­etable× 400g tins stock co­conut cube milkor 1 tbsp pow­der 2 lemon­grass stalks 4 lime leaves (op­tional) 1 shal­lot, peeled and finely sliced 2 gar­lic cloves, peeled and halved 1 red chilli, roughly chopped 2 tbsp co­conut sugar or caster sugar A bunch of fresh co­rian­der 200g buck­wheat noo­dles 250g chard or other sum­mery greens, washed and shred­ded 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari Juice of 2 limes

To serve

A bunch of chives or gar­lic chives, and their flow­ers A hand­ful of one or all of the fol­low­ing: basil, pur­ple basil, co­rian­der, mint

1 Pour the co­conut milk into a large pan and add a can­ful of wa­ter and the stock cube or pow­der. Bash the lemon­grass with a rolling pin un­til it’s smashed, to help re­lease the flavours more quickly. Add to the pan with the lime leaves (if you are us­ing them), shal­lot, gar­lic, chilli and sugar. Cut the roots off the co­rian­der and add that too.

2 Push all the aro­mat­ics into the liq­uid so they are cov­ered and turn the heat on un­der the pan. Bring to a gen­tle sim­mer, then al­low to bub­ble for 15 min­utes, or un­til you have an in­tensely flavoured co­conut broth.

3 Mean­while, cook the noo­dles in a pan of boil­ing wa­ter – they will take 8-10 min­utes, but all brands are dif­fer­ent so check the in­struc­tions on yours. Once cooked, drain and re­fresh in cold wa­ter, then put to one side. While they are cook­ing, wash and shred the chard. Shred the stalks as finely as you can but chop the leaves a lit­tle big­ger.

4 Next, take the broth pan off the heat and sieve the broth into a bowl, dis­card­ing all the aro­mat­ics (they have done their work now) and add the soy sauce and lime juice.

5 Di­vide the noo­dles into each bowl. Next to the noo­dles, pile up a quar­ter of the shred­ded chard and fi­nally pour the warm soup over the lot. Top with the chives and herbs and, if you like, a lit­tle more lime.

Corn, cour­gette and baby gem soup

This is loosely based on a corn soup recipe by Diana Kennedy, a fas­tid­i­ous re­searcher and writer on Mex­i­can food. Cour­gettes come in all sizes, so use two medium ones as a guide. If it is sear­ingly hot out­side, this soup is ex­cel­lent cold too.

Serves 4

2 medium cour­gettes 4 tbsp but­ter or olive oil 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 gar­lic cloves, finely chopped 4 ears of corn, ker­nels only Up to 1 litre of wa­ter A small hand­ful of fresh co­rian­der, plus more to serve 1 green chilli 2 lit­tle gems, washed and shred­ded Sea salt

1 Grate 1½ cour­gettes (you will use the other half later) on a stan­dard box grater. Heat 1 tbsp of the but­ter or oil in a large, deep pan, add the grated cour­gettes and cook for a few min­utes, un­til they are soft and be­gin­ning to colour. Then tip the lot into a blender (you can use a hand blender too) and blitz a lit­tle, keep­ing a bit of tex­ture. Put to one side.

2 Heat a lit­tle more oil or but­ter and fry the onion and gar­lic, without brown­ing, un­til soft. Add the cour­gette mix­ture and cook for an­other cou­ple of min­utes.

3 Blitz the corn ker­nels in the blender with up to 1 litre wa­ter (de­pend­ing on what con­sis­tency you like), most of the co­rian­der leaves (sav­ing a few to fin­ish) and all the stalks, the chilli and most of the shred­ded let­tuce. Blitz un­til smooth.

4 Add the corn mix­ture to the pan with the cour­gettes and onions, then cook on a medium heat for an­other few min­utes, stir­ring and scrap­ing the bot­tom of the pan to stop the mix­ture from stick­ing. Sea­son to taste.

5 Mean­while, cut the re­main­ing half cour­gette into thick coins. Once the soup is warmed through, la­dle into bowls and fin­ish with the re­main­ing let­tuce, co­rian­der and the lit­tle cour­gette coins.

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