Selecting the starter for Supper Club numero dos was a drawn-out affair. I was feeling despondent after weeks of making roasted vegetable terrines that did not set, when Charlotte stumbled across this recipe from Plenty by Ottelenghi. It ticked all the boxes: seasonal, light and a perfect match for Rachael's delicious ricotta and sun dried tomato stuffed chicken which would be making its debut as our Main.
A somewhat risky choice to feed a room of strangers (cold soup?!) but the guests lapped it up and cried for more (they didn't get it, we were carefully controlling portions so that they had room for the main, trio of desserts and exquisite macaroons we had in store).
The reason for its success? The nuts and basil give it a rich, full flavour; the chilli gives it a kick. And if you put that combination of delicious green things in a glass it can only lead to one thing: a taste fresh as a summer's day.
I served the soup with croutons made from homemade soda bread. Baking your own bread is a bit extravagant for croutons and not strictly necessary, but that's just how we roll in the Keston Kitchen.
(Serves 6 - big portions)
2 celery sticks (including the leaves)
2 small green peppers, deseeded
1 large cucumber (weighing about 350g), peeled
3 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
1 fresh green chilli
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp sugar
150g walnuts, lightly toasted
200g baby spinach
25g basil leaves
4tbsp sherry vinegar
225 ml olive oil
40g Greek yoghurt
250g ice cubes
white pepper preferably, but black works too)
2 thick slices bread
4tbsp olive oil
To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the bread into 2cm cubes and toss them in the olive oil and a bit of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 mins or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Roughly chop up the celery, peppers, cucumber, bread, chilli and garlic. Place in a blender and add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yoghurt, water, half the ice cubes, salt and pepper. Blitz the soup until smooth.
(n.b. our blender is small so I had to do it in batches).
Lastly, add the remaining ice and pulse once or twice to crush it a little. Serve at once with the croutons.