Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past two weeks (which might actually have been the coolest place to be), you’ll be well aware of the sweltering heat that descended upon the Western Cape. It’s hardly a surprise when the mercury goes the other side of 35 in the African summer, but knowing it’s going to happen and being prepared for it are two separate things entirely.
Continuing a recent theme of culinary expertise on our blog, here are five cold soups (ranging from classic to new and unique) that we love because of the bold flavour combinations involved. They’re also the most delicious, adventurous and nutritious way to stay cool.
Summer soups with Sol’s
- Funky fresh watermelon & feta
- Carrot, orange & cabrito
- Spanspek, cucumber & culatello
Rumour has it that King Louis XV of France (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774) accidentally invented a version of today’s Vichyssoise. The paranoid King loved his comforting potato soup and had it for dinner often. He was worried that someone was trying to poison him and demanded that a number of servants taste his food before he ate it. King Louis’ favourite recipe for potato soup was often passed from one servant to another, so by the time it finally reached him, it was cold. King Louis decided that he preferred his potato soup cold. Whether or not this fable is true, you can be the judge.
Potato & leek soup is a classic, age-old combination hailing from Vichy in central France. It can plausibly be enjoyed hot but it’s a soup that is traditionally served cold. A dollop of double cream and even a knob or two of butter, if you use the late, great Anthony Bourdain’s recipe, add an extra layer of love to a dish that isn’t remotely suitable for people following a keto diet, but for lovers of carbs, there are very few soups that are quite as satisfying. Perfect for vegetarians and hearty enough to please the biggest appetites, vichyssoise ticks a lot of boxes and it’s easy to make.
Sweated buttery leaks (careful not to colour them), soft potatoes and hearty chicken stock are the basis of a classic vichyssoise. Once this combination is blended/pureed, it’s embellished with nutmeg and cream which are whisked into the mix. The final step is patience because you’ll need to cool the soup in order to serve it as its optimal and traditional best.
A good way to enhance your vichyssoise is by adding some fresh asparagus to the soup while cooking and then blending it all together. Be sure to pass the asparagus through a sieve to get rid of its fibrous bits. A splash of green and a touch of class and you’re ready to serve. Accompany with croutons, melba toast, hot ciabatta or all of the above. Garnish with finely chopped fresh chives and serve.
Utter the phrase “cold soup” in a game of 30 Seconds game and there’s a high probability that your teammates will shout “gazpacho” back at you. It’s a ubiquitous dish because of how easy and delicious it is but also because of how many versions of gazpacho there now are across the globe.
Gazpacho is derived from the Arabic meaning “soaked bread” and it’s a dish that originated in the Andalusian region of Southern Spain. Now it is popular around the world. But what are the important and long-respected fundamentals of Andalusian gazpacho upon which you can build, experiment and play with your own signature touches? Versions of Gazpacho can be classified by their colour; red ones contain tomato, white ones contain no tomato but are full of dried fruits, and green ones (which are white but contain spices that make them appear green).
Most gazpacho versions include stale bread, tomato, cucumbers, onion, peppers, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water, and salt. Northern recipes often include cumin and/or pimentón (smoked sweet paprika). Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomato & watermelon gazpacho recipe is simplistically beautiful and easy to emulate, with a fresh fruity twist.
Accompany gazpacho with sourdough bread and garnish with croutons to elevate it to a new level. If you want to evoke memories of South African summer, you can do a lot worse than gazpacho for any event, especially one which is outdoors and basked in sunshine. What a treat it is to eat cold soup over Christmas with family in the Southern Hemisphere.
Check out our full slow-roasted tomato soup recipe for a more decadent version of this classic dish that can be served hot or chilled.
Funky fresh watermelon & feta cold soup
Chef Sol would like to take the mic now and quickly provide some insight on a topic close to his heart:
“I’ve seen quite a few variations of this soup over my time as a chef, ranging from superbly elegant fine dining versions to bbq buffet punch bowls, so how serious you want to get is really up to you.
The version I love most is really simple to knock up and has the potential to exude class with impressive ease. The key ingredients are really good watermelon, soy sauce, high-quality feta cheese and toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds.”
To make the soup you blitz watermelon and strain through a fine straining device. Then season it very lightly with some soy sauce. The soy obviously brings salt to a party that is already sweet, but because it’s a fermented sauce, it also ushers in notes of umami. This, in addition to the creamy feta, creates a sensation in one’s mouth that is truly unique.
The feta is beaten/whipped along with a small amount of cream, then piped or plated in a bowl along with some cubed, deseeded watermelon (dress these in some mint and olive oil) and the toasted seeds. Pour the cold soup tableside. Simple, but effective.
Carrot, orange & cabrito
Here we offer up a simply prepared summery cold soup that makes a hero of the humble carrot. Pairing it alongside hints of fruity orange from a marmalade and creamy goats cheese, you can’t go wrong impressing your guests with this easy-to-throw-together, sumptuously refreshing, chilled soup. As it’s a cooked soup, it will take a bit of prep time, so keep this in mind when planning. The actual mechanics of getting it together are really simple though – so no need to stress. A wonderful bowl of complementary flavours awaits you with this one. Check out our carrot, orange & cabrito cold soup recipe to have a go at it yourself.
Spanspek, cucumber & culatello
A wondrous new take on an old flavour combination. The light, thinly-sliced charcuterie is not stiffened by the chill of the soup, and is cut by the spoon and dissolves into your mouth perfectly with the other ingredients. Given the fact that we freeze the liquid into an almost granita-like state, we use the word soup loosely with this one, but essentially, that’s what it ends up becoming. The subtle hint of chilli makes its way through in the cucumber salsa that provides some fresh crunch. The herbs also have a magical part to play and should not be omitted from the recipe. I’ve played around a bit with the plating here, draping the charcuterie over cuts of melon so as to encourage the collaboration of the two ingredients. But, as always, you can do whatever pleases the eye and the palate at the plating stage. As long as you keep the balance of flavours in check and are able to do it quickly so that the granita doesn’t melt, then you’re golden. Another important consideration is to let the “soup” element of the dish be blended thoroughly, until silky smooth, and then allowed to freeze whilst occasionally mixing and scratching it. The resultant granita-like soup is exactly the kind of mind-blowing effect you want to offer up on a balmy summer evening. When plating, make sure you have everything as ready as it can be before you start to serve directly to expectant guests. Check out our full spanspek, cucumber & culatello soup recipe for the rundown.
We aren’t the types to be dishing out life advice, but today we will make a small and temporary exception. As we approach the very peak of Cape Town summer, make sure to religiously apply sun protection and eat cold soup as much as possible! Try out a few of these recipes before we chat again.