Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
There is a question that has not troubled many of the world’s intellectuals but which I am going to address here: what is soup? Dictionary definitions tell us that a soup is a liquid food made by boiling meat and/or vegetables, and of course that is usually the case.
But why do we have to involve heat in this? At the risk of putting a curse on the hot summer the UK has been experiencing, the last thing you need when the weather is like that is something to warm you up, which is one of soup’s traditional roles. Why shouldn’t we make soup without heat?
It’s like saying that making a salad is not cooking; we associate cooking with heat that changes the natural state of something. But to prepare a combination of vegetables and olives, peppers and so on is to make a meal, and that is the object of the exercise.
Chilled soups are called chilled rather than cold because chilled sounds more appetizing than cold. We looked at a quick and easy tomato-based gazpacho a few weeks ago, and today it is the turn of that other salad staple, the cucumber.
To describe this recipe as simple is like saying Marilyn Monroe was quite attractive or The Beatles were fairly good. This recipe is a piece of cake. As long as you have the right ingredients and an electric blender, you can do it.
One great thing about soup is that it feels like it’s doing you good, and it probably is. When using raw ingredients as we are here, it’s doubly good. Vitamins, minerals, hydration: it’s like an injection of liquid good health.
Cucumber (half a large one per person)
Stock cube (vegetable or chicken)
Peel your cucumber(s) and scrape the seeds out. If there is plenty of juice with the seeds, see if you can strain that out to use. Chop the cucumber into two-inch pieces and put it in the blender. Crumble the stock cube in. It is important to use a dry cube. If it’s a sticky one, you’ll have to dissolve it in hot water first and cool it, which is okay but takes time. The powdered stuff called boullion is a good option.
Add as much water as you need, bearing in mind that a lot of it needs more cucumber and stock. A few ice cubes would be good too.
Blitz it until the cucumber is liquid.
Chop a yellow pepper into small cubes. Chop the green part of the spring onion into small pieces. Slice some more cucumber thinly for decoration.
If you have time, chill this in the fridge for a while so it’s really cold.
Pour the soup into big bowls and float the cucumber slices. Sprinkle the pepper and spring onions on top.
Serve with nice crusty bread, French or otherwise, and butter.
The peppers are like croutons, something crunchy in the liquid, and the spring onions add a touch of bite to the flavor.
Add some freshly ground black pepper, but no salt, because there will be enough in the stock.
If you can only get red peppers, that’s fine, but green ones might be a little bitter. If no spring onions, chives would be good. If you have some radishes, you could cube them and they will add a bit more peppery crunch.
This is not the only cucumber soup. You could use melon, prepared like the cucumber, but then you’re in sweet, fruity territory, so don’t use the spring onion. Maybe use cubed apple instead of the peppers.