I had quite a pile of salad leaves after the final clearance of the summer salads beds, so after I'd washed them and put the best ones in a bag in the fridge*, I still had quite a few lesser quality leaves left over. I also discovered a cucumber which had hidden itself in the coldframe and needed eating up quickly.
With Saturday's colder weather, the answer came in the form of soup. This is a very flexible recipe, adjust according to whatever you've cleared from your plot which needs eating up now.
Ingredients - serves 4-6
- 150g (approx) mixed, washed lettuce leaves or a large head of lettuce, washed and pulled apart
- 300g cucumber, cubed
- 4 leeks - the top green cylindrical part, about 4 inches in length for each one (I used the lower white part for our Sunday dinner veg)
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock - whichever is preferred or available
- ½ teaspoon lovage seed (or about 10 leaves if you're growing some)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Put the stock in the pan and bring to the boil
- Chop up the leeks and add to the stock
- Add the cubed cucumber plus the lettuce leaves and ensure they're fully immersed in the stock (the leaves tend to float given half a chance!)
- Add the lovage, plus salt and pepper to taste
- Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes
- Blend with a stick blender until smooth - watch out for that odd bit of cucumber which always escapes processing ;)
- Taste and adjust seasoning if needed
- Pour the soup into individual bowls
- If using, swirl through a generous spoonful of half-fat creme fraiche in each bowl and scatter over the fennel fronds to garnish
My soup was extremely quick to make and had a fresh, delicate taste. It reminded me of summer, but also had the warmth of winter. Whilst I've called it the Last of the Summer Soup, this version could also be made in the summer months and served chilled.
- If you're needing something more in the way of comfort food, add a scrubbed and cubed medium sized potato. Adjust the cooking time to 15 minutes, so the potato is tender.
- Use whatever herbs you have to hand. I chose fennel to garnish as it echoes the anise flavouring of the lovage seed. Parsley or coriander would also work well as would par-cel or celery leaf
- Late season lettuce leaves can be on the bitter side, especially if they're starting to bolt. Add some frozen peas, tomatoes or red pepper to the soup to add some counterbalancing sweetness if needed. Peas will also add to the comfort food factor, so could be used as a substitute for the suggested potato.
- Courgette can be used instead of cucumber.
- I used leek tops because I had some to hand and their more delicate flavour doesn't swamp those of the lettuce, cucumber and lovage. A large onion could be used instead, especially if you have one of the milder, sweeter kind.
- If you don't have fresh stock, a stock cube can be used instead. You probably won't need any salt if this is the case.
* = has anyone else noticed how long hand picked salad leaves keep in the fridge? Much longer than the supermarket 'pillow' bags do.