This light soup features the freshest vegetables currently available from the garden. It is designed to be served à la minute, the vegetables barely being cooked to capture and retain the essence of the quintessential flavours of summer, with freshly picked home-grown vegetables and herbs from garden to plate in under 30 minutes.
Why are you posting about soup in the middle of summer you may ask? As a typical Brit, I am unnecessarily preoccupied with the weather. The UK mainland is currently experiencing an enviable heatwave and the hottest July since 2006. Here in the Outer Hebrides, it is the antithesis: low cloud, rain / smir, mist / fog and wind. Visibility is currently about 300m. I was supposed to be in Orkney for work this week, but this has not been an option due to the fog causing flight cancellations. We have also now had no mail for 3 days as the mail plane is also cancelled.
I’m not prepared to put a gloss on life here by suggesting the weather (and life here generally for that matter) is always amazing but I do usually resent leaving the island during the summer as there is no place better to be – when we have the weather that is. Once again, I feel so sorry for visitors that arrived in the last week as we have seen the sun for only about 1 hour since we returned from our mainland trip one week ago. In fact, we are trying not to feel sorry for ourselves as radio commentators talk about how glorious the weather is (almost) everywhere and how hot it is while I walk the dogs in the usual fleece and waterproof jacket. I am glad that we will not have more visitors until the weekend and hope the improving forecast is accurate.
In fairness, we had amazing summer last year while the rest of the UK was deluged with rain and floods. Unfortunately, the relocation of the jet stream to its more usual position further south this summer means the weather is perhaps much more as we should expect it to be here. That said, it is probably, on balance the worst summer we have had (in terms of sunshine and warmth at least) since we moved here.
Instead of wallowing in self pity (or vacating the island until the murk lifts – not that I can get off by plane!), I decided to celebrate the garden successes I am having with a summery soup and accompanying fragrant pesto. The success of some crops is surprising given the weather, but welcome and the harvest looks and tastes like summer, even if the sky and temperature indicate otherwise. I really enjoy cold soups, but given our current temperatures, a warm soup seems more appropriate.
Summer garden soup
The vegetables were freshly picked, cleaned and prepared and given the gentlest possible cooking. I used whatever was in prime condition for picking: chard, garlic, spring onions, chervil and parsley from outside, courgettes and flowers (I know, technically a fruit) and very tasty fine beans from the tunnel.
A splash of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely sliced
3 small courgettes (and flowers if available)
a handful of fine beans
a big bunch of chard (about 250g)
4 spring onions
a bunch of chervil
a bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 litre of vegetable stock
salt and pepper
- Wash, clean and roughly chop the veg (except the onion, finely chop it).
- Add the oil to a large pan, then the onion and cook gently for a few minutes until translucent then add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute before adding the fine beans, courgette (not flowers), thicker chard stems and stock.
- Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, add the chard leaves and cook for a further minute before stirring in the spring onions, herbs and flowers. Season to taste and top with some pesto.
Lemon basil and pistachio pesto
One thing that has been a raging success this year is my basil. I am growing 5 different varieties (Mrs Burns, Cinnamon, Red Rubin, Sweet Genovese and Italian Giant) and all have been producing well. I therefore have been spoilt for choice and wanted to make a pesto with a distinctive tang.
Although I used 3 types of basil in this recipe, the variety Mrs Burns is extremely refreshing and lemony and I wanted the citrus zing of this variety to predominate, with cinnamon (more almost anise-like) and Italian Giant adding depth and complexity to the flavour of the pesto, each complementing the vibrant pistachio nuts included. This pesto also works really well with fish and we enjoyed it with baked brown trout.
50g Mrs Burns or lemon basil leaves
10g cinnamon basil leaves
10g Giant Italian basil leaves
50g fresh grated parmesan
50g pistachio nuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled
200 ml good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
a few turns of pepper
- Put all ingredients in a food processor, pulse then blitz for a minute or so, until smooth.
- Store in a jar in the fridge, keeps for about a week.