Bloke in the Kitchen. Chilled cucumber soup

kitchen

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 soup

INGREDIENTS

Cucumber (half a large one per person)

Yellow pepper

Spring onion

Stock cube (vegetable or chicken)

Lemon juice

METHOD

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.

COWBOY TIP/OPTIONS

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.

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. Gazpacho

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

There are people – even some intelligent people whom I know and like – who dismiss gazpacho as cold tomato soup. Well guess what: it is a kind of cold tomato soup. But it’s not just tomato soup that’s gone cold: it’s special.

And – the two vital considerations for Bloke in the Kitchen – it’s delicious and it’s easy.

It’s a starter really, but can be your whole lunch if you like.

gazpacho

The concept of chilled soup is alien to many, because in the cool countries we’re brought up with the idea of soup as a meal to warm us up on a cold day. But just turn that on its head: in a hot country or on a hot day, soup can be something that helps cool you down.

And it’s all raw vegetables; think of the vitamins and minerals you’re getting.

It takes about ten minutes to make and then it needs to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to get really cold. Some people put ice in it, but remember, ice is water and water dilutes flavours. So just give it plenty of time to chill.

This is a starter really, but could be your whole lunch if you like.

Juicing a bucketload of tomatoes would take a long time, but you don’t have to do that. We’re going to use V8, which is tomato juice with other vegetables – beets, celery, carrots, lettuce, parsley, watercress and  spinach.  And it is already liquid, so all we have to do is open it. Then we add cucumber (just the flesh – peel it and scrape out the seeds, keeping the juice if you can) and some spices to enrich the flavor.

This recipe has a kick at the back of the throat, partly from the hot pepper but also the garlic.

INGREDIENTS

Large bottle of  V8 vegetable  juice.

Cucumber (a six-inch piece is about right for two people, peeled, deseeded)

Salt

Garlic (one clove, crushed)

Ground black pepper

Celery salt

Cumin powder

Jalapeno or cayenne powder

Lime juice

Olive oil

Worcestershire sauce

COWBOY TIP

If you want to make this really spicy with the sort of kick that will stop the cynics in their tracks, use a fresh chilli, but be careful to taste the soup and make sure your guests can handle it. And warn them. If it’s too hot, all you can do is add some more of everything else to spread out the heat.

METHOD

Shake the juice and pour into a blender.

Peel and deseed the cucumber, cut into three-inch pieces.

Crush the garlic and add to the mixture

Add a little celery salt and some table salt, plus ground black pepper, a dash of cumin and a little shake of the hot powder. Squeeze in a dash of lime or lemon juice and give it a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a slight glug of olive oil. Take it easy with all of these. You can add more later but you can’t take them out.

Blend it until the cucumber has disappeared.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Pour into a large bowl, such as a salad bowl.

Chill it for at least two hours. If time is short, put it in the freezer for a while, but don’t forget it.

Serve in soup bowls or pasta bowls, each with a cilantro or parsley leaf floating on top – just for garnish.

Eat with some fresh, crisp French bread and butter.