Cold fruity soup. | T. AYUGA

0

Usually by mid-May at the latest I am already well into summer mode. But that didn’t happen this year and I wasn’t really aware of summer heat until last weekend.And as soon as I realised the full glare of the 9.30am sun was burning the bald patch on the dome of my head, I stopped at the chemist’s to get a tube of sunscreen — and applied some on my way home at lunchtime.

Next day I looked out my Woody Allen hat to wear on those stretches of road where there is no shade. When I hit the shade again I pull off the hat and stuff it into my basket: Woody Allen looks good in a Woody Allen hat, but I don’t.

Every day at lunchtime I find myself walking down Jaime III, including Sundays and fiesta days. During the summer months everyone seems to be carrying a bottle of water — or else dutifully taking a quick sip at it. I never travel with a bottle of water at hand. But I do have a most successful irrigation system. It consists of completely hydrating myself while at the office reading the papers. This entails drinking two large ice-cold coffees with milk, two dumpy tumblers of milk laced with goat’s milk kefir and then a full litre of cold water, which I finish just before I leave for home.

The result is that on my way home, with stops at El Corte Inglés and elsewhere the trip can last for as long as two hours, my vital organs are so well irrigated they have all the liquid they need —and then some. But that doesn’t stop me from starting off lunch with more liquid — in the form of cold soups. One of the things I rediscover every summer is that cold soups are a splendid way to start a meal.

Another advantage of cold soups, especially for the person making them, is that most of them don’t involve cooking. Any dish that keeps us away from the cooker always has loads of appeal for those who do the cooking. Most of us think of soups, whether hot or cold, as being made with vegetables. That’s because so many soups are made with veggies. Fruit is a great summer dessert and a between-meals nibble but it can also be turned into delish cold soups that are ideal starters on hot days and nights.

Melon soup

Melon is an especially suitable fruit for cold soups because they are plentiful in Mallorca and are most reasonably priced. Soups made with melon sometimes call for the raw fruit, but in some recipes the melon is cooked. Both methods produce superb cold soups and both are worth trying. The following recipes are suitable for 4-6 servings.

For the cooked version you will need: 2 smallish melons (the Marina variety is ideal), juice of a lemon, a litre of fat-free chicken stock, 3 tbsps finely chopped fresh mint, pinch of ground cinnamon, 150 mls cream, salt to taste. Cut one of the melons in half, remove the seeds and fibre and scoop out some small balls for use as a garnish. Sprinkle the balls with lemon juice and keep them in a covered bowl in the fridge until needed. Slice the rest of the melons, remove the rind, cut the flesh into wedges and put them into a blender with the chicken stock. Blitz at top speed, pour the mixture into a saucepan and add the mint and a pinch of cinnamon. Simmer for 10 minutes. Put the soup through a sieve and when cold stir in the cream. Keep in the fridge until very cold. Serve in freezer-cold plates, bowls or glasses, garnished with the little balls of melon and a leaf or two of fresh mint.

For the uncooked version you will need: 2 smallish Marina melons, lemon juice to taste, and a syrup made with 250 mls water and 100 grs of sugar. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for four minutes and leave to cool. Slice the melons, remove seeds and fibre, and take off the rind. Dice the flesh and blitz in a blender to make a smooth purée. Transfer to a biggish bowl, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice (or more) and add enough syrup to give the soup a nicely balanced sweet and sour taste. If the purée at this stage is very thick, add a little ice-cold water. Avoid tap water because it could easily spoil the soup’s delicate flavour. Serve the soup in freezer-cold bowls, plates or glasses and decorate with a couple of mint leaves. For an exotic touch, you can float petals of edible summer flowers on the surface.

For many people avocados are a great summer stand-by for adding to salads or for using as the star ingredient in toppings for bagels, sandwiches and rolls. Several vegetarian friends always have a couple of avocados in the kitchen awaiting their moment of exact ripeness.

Avocados at one time were considered a luxury fruit but that is no longer the case. The best place to buy them is El Corte Inglés where the price has been a steady €5.49 a kilo for years. The cost frequently drops by just over one euro when a batch nears its ripeness peak. But on Tuesday the price was €3.89 a kilo. I’ve never seen it as low as that. Two of these low-cost fruits will make a cold cream soup for four, which means a low-priced starter for an elegant summer evening meal.

You will need: 1 litre fat-free chicken stock, 2 ripe avocados, 1 spring onion, one ripe tomato, 4 tbsps lemon juice, a few drops of Tabasco, salt and a little finely chopped parsley or fresh cilantro. Halve the avocados lengthways, remove the stones and extract the flesh with a spoon, keeping a small amount to be diced and added to the finished soup. Put the rest of the flesh into a blender with the finely chopped spring onion, the peeled tomato and the chicken stock. Blitz until very smooth. Transfer to a suitable bowl and season with salt, Tabasco and the chopped fresh parsley or cilantro. Keep in the fridge until well chilled and serve in freezer-cold bowls or glasses with tiny pieces of avocado sprinkled over the surface. A ultra-thin slice of lime can also be used as an adornment.

Just about any vegetable that has been cooked can also be turned into interesting cold soups. You can use one veggie only, or two or three that complement each other. The vegetables can be leftovers or cooked for the occasion.

Sometimes the simplest of combinations make the best soups. If you start with a potato base, you can devise all kinds of impromptu mixtures.

Try potatoes with turnips (nabos), carrots, a little fresh spinach, unpeeled courgettes (calabacín), pumpkin (calabaza), broccoli, frozen peas, and most of the salad greens.

Use any of the fresh herbs that take your fancy: parsley, basil, cilantro, chives, thyme, dill, fennel and more. They are available at El Corte Inglés, either cut and in trays, or in small pots.

Some of the soups mentioned above make more of a visual impact when served in glasses of an appropriate size and shape. Shallow wide ones are best of all. If the soup is a smooth one, sip it from the glass, rather than eat it with a spoon. And the glasses should always be freezer-cold.