Not every summer day is for salad, and on a damp, grey June afternoon what you really need is soup. But leek & potato or cream of chicken don’t fit the bill either, as cream or potato based soups are inevitably too heavy, too insulating and too rich for this time of year. A light, satisfying and slightly exotic soup is what is required, served in small bowls with pretty garnishes and interesting textures. I like to use a simple butternut squash soup as a base, and then add herbs, flowers, oils and any other additions to make it into a lovely summer meal.
Last week I tried the butternut squash soup with crumbled feta, shredded mint and toasted butternut squash seeds and it was great; today I had it with broad bean flowers and a sour cream and orange flower water swirl, and it turned out equally good. The logic behind using the orange flower water is that the blossoms and early greens of the broad bean share the same elegant, summery scent as the orange flower water; a mysterious and intriguing flavour that no-one can ever put their finger on (although I promise you, it is essence of bean). Try this soup for lunch or for a light dinner, and be creative with your toppings – think about how different textures and colours will play off each other, think about something nice to drizzle over it, and most importantly of all, think about what’s in your fridge.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH ORANGE FLOWER WATER & SOUR CREAM
I know that not everyone has the luxury of a patch of these lovely, rather Chanel-esque broad bean flowers in their garden, so just use a dollop of the orange flower water sour cream with any edible flowers or herbs you have handy. A pretty white pansy thieved from a neighbour’s garden would work, as would some shredded mint or rose and marigold petals. Orange flower water is available in most good grocery stores, although do bear in mind that it doesn’t taste like orange in any form. Serves 4.
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 medium white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp ground coriander
1 litre good-quality chicken or vegetable soup
Squeeze of orange juice
1tsp orange flower water
50g sour cream
Some edible flowers or herbs to decorate – rose petals, pansies, bean flowers, marigolds…
Toasted butternut squash seeds
Pitta bread, toasted
Prepare the butternut squash, setting aside the seeds to soak, salt and roast. Roast the butternut squash with olive oil, a pinch of harissa and 2 cloves of garlic, skins on for about 25 minutes, or until soft and cooked through. Fry the onion over a low heat with oil until soft and golden and add the butternut squash cubes. Add the diced cooked and raw garlic and continue gently heating. Add the spices, along with a touch more harissa if you like a bit of heat. Season to taste. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Blend and warm through once more, serving in small bowls. Meanwhile, slacken the sour cream with a little orange flower water, adding more of either as required. Swirl it on top of the bowls of soup, add the flowers, herbs or toasted butternut squash seeds and serve with toasted pitta.