This is fresh tasting and delicious with a zing of heat and spice from the chilli, garlic and fennel o

Ingredients

There has been a trend over the last few years for soup to be served with a very thick consistency and the notion of a bowl of soup as a meal has changed people's perception and understanding of this most useful and sometimes ambrosial dish.

There are certainly some soups that should be robust such as an Italian bean soup or a tangle of noodles in a spiced broth in a south east Asian bowl, but it would be a pity to forget all about a refined and smooth soup with a creamy consistency which is seen as a course in a meal rather than the main event.

The refinement adds to the sophistication and this is a soup that you eat elegantly from the spoon rather than a great slurping exercise. 

This is fresh tasting and delicious with a zing of heat and spice from the chilli, garlic and fennel oil. Medium or even larger green courgettes are perfect here and generally with those, the soup is a lovely green colour. It is fun though to make this soup with yellow courgettes as it produces a really lovely golden coloured result. It is perhaps the effect of the basil that is most surprising here - the leaves are torn into the soup just before it goes to the table and as a result the floral scent of the herb is obvious and immediate. 

Failing the garlic, chilli and fennel oil, I am happy to serve this soup garnished with a little softly whipped cream or just a drizzle of plain unseasoned extra virgin olive oil and a restrained sprinkle of chilli flakes.

Should you happen to get a few of the beautiful flowers with the courgettes, those are lovely torn into bite-sized pieces and scattered over the bowls of soup just before they go to the table. 

Serves 6

  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 130gr chopped onion
  • 170gr potato, peeled and diced potato
  • 500gr courgette cut into ½ cm dice
  • 700ml chicken stock 
  • 50 – 100ml of cream or creamy milk (1/2 cream, ½ milk) optional
  • 8-12 basil leaves


Garlic, Chilli and Fennel Oil

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of fennel seeds, coarsely ground
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Sea salt 

Method

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan and allow to foam. Reduce the heat and add the onion and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and toss the vegetables in the fat.
  2. Cover with a disc of greaseproof paper and a tight fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 10 minutes allowing the vegetables to sweat and begin to tenderize. 
  3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and cook covered until the onions and potatoes are completely tender.
  4. Add the diced courgette and simmer uncovered until the courgettes are also tender. Add the cream if using, return to a simmer briefly and puree the soup to achieve a smooth and silky consistency.
  5.  Taste and correct seasoning. Serve the soup in hot bowls with a drizzle of the garlic, chilli and fennel oil and some whole or torn basil leaves.

Garlic, Chilli and Fennel Oil

  1. Heat the olive oil in a small pan on a moderate heat. Add the thinly sliced garlic; it should sizzle on contact with the oil. Stir for a minute or two or until crispy and golden and cooked through.
  2. Now take the saucepan off the heat (err on the side of caution with the level of heat as garlic can burn quickly and easily). Immediately add the coarsely ground fennel seed, pinch of chilli flakes and a pinch of sea salt.
  3. Stir and decant straight away into a small bowl to stop the cooking.

To serve

  1. Ladle the piping hot soup into a warmed soup bowl and drizzle the garlic oil on top. Finish by tearing over two fresh basil leaves or leaving smaller ones whole. Serve immediately.

Note: consistency of soup (thickness/thinness) is down to the individual, adding more or less stock will achieve that.