Here in Alsace, as in most of Europe, we’ve been sweltering for what feels like the past couple of months in 30-degree temperatures. It’s far too hot to cook, and we’re living on iced soups and salads. Here are five soups, three red and two green. All you need is a blender or food processor, a few basic ingredients (tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, avocados and courgettes can play either starring roles or bit parts) and about 6 minutes’ of your precious summer time. And of course they’re uncooked – except for the last one – so no sweating over the proverbial hot stove (think salad in liquid form).
A classic iced soup – a cousin of gazpacho but thicker, smoother and sinfully creamy (but no cream) – which is gulped down gratefully in the dog days of summer in Córdoba/Andalucia, Spain’s oven, where temperatures hover around the 40-degree mark for most of July and August. It has just tomatoes, yesterday’s bread, garlic, sherry (of course) vinegar and olive oil. I take a tip from my son Ol and add a little raw apple, which brings out the sweet notes in the tomatoes. Serve it well chilled, topped with strips of jamón and hard-boiled egg (hen’s or quail’s).
Makes 6 soup bowls or 10-12 small glasses
100g day-old baguette, trimmed of crusts (weighed after crusts have been removed)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 apple, peeled
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar
125ml olive oil
salt to taste – about 1 teaspoon
2-3 slices cured ham (ibérico, Serrano, prosciutto etc.) cut in strips
2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped or 12 quail’s eggs, boiled 3 minutes and halved
- Trim crusts from the bread, cut it in chunks, put in a bowl and pour on just enough cold water to cover – leave to soften
- Quarter the tomatoes and put them in the blender with the crushed garlic (or put them in a large bowl and use a hand-held blender)
- Grate the peeled apple with a box grater, add it to the tomatoes with the vinegar and blend till smooth
- Tip the soaked bread into a colander and press or squeeze out all excess water, add the bread and blend once more
- If you can be bothered, push the soup through a strainer – it should be silky smooth
- Return soup to blender/bowl and, with the motor running, dribble in the oil in a steady stream – the salmorejo will thicken and turn from rosy pink to the colour of an Andalucian sunset
- Season with salt to taste (add 1 teaspoon, then taste) and blend again
- Chill the salmorejo for several hours or overnight
- Serve in small bowls or glasses with strips of ham and chopped/halved eggs scattered on top
Gazpacho in a Glass
A nice twist on an old favourite, served in chunky glasses and topped with chopped peppers, egg, cucumber and onion so you can see the different layers.
Makes about 1.5 litres, enough for 12 glasses (or 6 soup bowls)
1 kg vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
75g (about 1 cup) fresh white breadcrumbs or 1-day old white bread, crusts removed and cut in cubes
4 tbsp vinegar
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper
150ml olive oil
garnish: 2 hard-boiled eggs, ½ cucumber chopped, ½ red/green pepper chopped, a little chopped red onion
EITHER blend all ingredients except for the garnish in a huge bowl using a hand-held blender; OR use a blender/processor and work in 2 batches if necessary: put half the ingredients (bar the garnish) in a blender or food processor and blend till quite smooth. Through the hole in the lid of the blender/food processor funnel, pour in half the olive oil and blend till smooth and pale. Tip the gazpacho into a large bowl and blend/process the remaining ingredients in the same way. Mix the two together and taste for seasoning
Chill the soup really well
To serve, pour gazpacho into tumblers to come about 2/3 of the way up the glass and top with chopped garnishes, alternating the colours for maximum visual effect
Gazpacho with watermelon
Watermelon adds a nice touch to the regular gazpacho – especially good if your tomatoes are not as sweet as you might wish. For a buffet, serve in glasses with the garnishes sprinkled on top.
Makes about 1.5 litres
1 kg tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 medium red onion
500g watermelon, preferably seedless, weighed after skinning
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
125ml/ ½ cup olive oil + a little more to drizzle on top for serving
Salt and pepper
Little Gem or other crisp lettuce, leaves finely shredded
- Remove cores from tomatoes and discard, cut flesh in quarters and put in a large bowl or blender or food processor.
- Remove handle and seeds from red pepper, set aside a chunk for the garnish (enough for about 2 tablespoons, finely chopped) and roughly chop the rest – add to bowl/blender.
- Peel cucumber, set aside a 3-cm chunk for the garnish, roughly chop the rest and add to bowl/blender.
- Chop the onion finely, set aside about 1 tablespoon for the garnish and add the rest to bowl/blender.
- Set aside a chunk of watermelon (for 2 tablespoons, finely chopped) for the garnish, chop the rest roughly and add to bowl/blender.
- Add sherry vinegar and blend the soup till really smooth – you can push it through a strainer to remove any wayward pips, but this is a counsel of perfection and the soup will be fine without straining.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a steady trickle, continuing to blend till well mixed and emulsified.
- Chill the soup well. Serve in glasses, with the garnishes sprinkled on top.
Iced cucumber soup with coconut milk, avocado and coriander
A delicate, pale green affair with a bit of an Asian feel – chill the soup well, take it to a picnic or potluck in a thermos and bring glasses for serving.
Makes 1 litre, enough for 4-6 people
2 large cucumbers, about 1 kg total
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
plenty of chopped cilantro/coriander
1 fresh green chile (peperoncini, piment vert), seeded and very finely chopped
[or a pinch of cayenne or Espelette pepper]
juice of 1-2 limes
- Peel the cucumbers and cut in quarters lengthwise
- Remove seeds, chop flesh small and put in a colander
- Sprinkle with salt and leave in the sink to drain (30 minutes)
- Rinse the cucumbers and pat dry with paper towels
- Put in the blender with coconut milk, cilantro/coriander, avocado flesh, finely chopped chile (or cayenne/Espelette pepper) and lime juice and blend till smooth – don’t overdo it or the coconut milk may curdle
- Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if required
- Chill the soup well
Chilled green pea, courgette and avocado soup with smoked salmon tartare
This is one I included in the menu for my last workshop a couple of weeks ago in steamiest mid-July. The workshop was bid for at auction by a family from Santa Ana, California, at a fundraiser for Concern America. (This is the NGO our son worked for for 10 years in Mexico and Ecuador – click on the link to look at their website; it’s a great organisation and we are happy to continue supporting them in a tiny way…) The soup does need minimal cooking, but it’s worth it – and a great way to use up a glut of courgettes, which I’ve been trying womanfully to keep pace with this summer. It’s summer on a plate (or in a glass, depending on how you serve it): spring onions (scallions) or leek, zucchini and green peas with avocado, olive oil and a splash of lime juice at the end – and you can prepare it a couple of days ahead and leave it to chill. Serve with smoked salmon tartare, or [as in the picture] with ceviche.
4 tablespoons olive oil + extra for drizzling on the soup to serve
2 scallions or 1 small leek, sliced
1 medium zucchini, finely sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock or 1 litre water + 1 vegetable stock cube
Salt and white pepper
300g (10 ounces) frozen peas
1 avocado, cut in cubes
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons chopped tender herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, mint)
Smoked salmon tartare
4 slices (120g, 5 ounces) smoked salmon
60g (2 ½ ounces) cream cheese
Juice of ½ a lime
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan and soften the scallions or leek, zucchini and potato without allowing them to take colour, stirring from time to time – about 10’.
- Add the water and vegetable bouillon cube, bring to a boil and drop in the peas.
- Season to taste with salt and white pepper and boil for 5 minutes.
- Let it cool a little. Once cool, add the avocado flesh, 3 tablespoons olive oil and lime juice and blend till quite smooth with a stalk blender. Chill the soup well.
- For the tartare, chop the salmon and place in a food processor with the cream cheese, lime juice, chives and pepper. Process till smooth.
- To serve, spoon ovals of salmon tartare (or ceviche) into the bottom of soup bowls, pour the chilled soup around and garnish with herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.