Saturday, 20 September 2008

NCR: Spring Strawberry Soup

E and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last weekend. Having spent more than enough time eating out in Hobart until a few days before, both of us fancied a special dinner at home.

It was a perfect spring day. The mercury reached a pleasant 23 C. The warmth of the sun was welcome after a chilly Melbourne winter. After huddling inside by the heater for months we sat with the weekend newspaper in the backyard much to the delight of Zinc our cat. Even our struggling lime tree was proudly displaying new growth. Just the sort of day that inspires me to buy a loaf of excellent Sugardough bread, a bundle of nice vegies and head home to make fresh salad sandwiches to eat in the sunny backyard with Zinc sunworshipping nearby. Dinner was planned to reflect this fine weather.

I was glad of the leftover filling from my burritos the previous night. This made dinner that little bit easier. I halved and scooped out two medium zucchini and stuffed them with the filling and baked them about 30-40 minutes. I served these with roast potatoes, spring vegetables (broccoli, peas and asparagus) and a simple avocado sauce. Delicious!

But it was the soup that was to be the piece de resistance. When Holler and Lisa announced that the theme for their No Croutons Required event in September was to be fruit in a soup or salad, I decided to dig out a recipe for Strawberry Soup I had scribbled down in the library months ago. I’ve wanted to make a fruit soup for some time but never like the idea of tapioca or cornstarch in these soups and was attracted to this soup because it had neither. Even better, it had many of my favourite summer fruits.

Making this soup at the start of spring meant that much of the fruit in the recipe has not yet come into season … sigh! So I went to my favourite green grocer in Carlton where I was able to purchase Australian strawberries, raspberries and passionfruit. A fresh nectarine was a bigger challenge at this time of year, so I opened a tin of unsweetened peaches which had been loitering in the pantry.

The recipe called for marscapone but I have been intrigued by Ricki’s Chilled Peach Soup with Cashew Coconut Cream. Full of confidence I tried to make a simple cashew cream. The result was a horrid sweet watery substance with ground cashews in it. It was so disgusting I threw it out. I think my food processor let me down by not incorporating the cashews into the liquid properly. Maybe another time I will try it with cashew nut butter and see if that is any more successful. Or maybe I am just not meant to enjoy cashew cream any more than I enjoy any milk whether it comes from a cow or a soy bean.

So by the time my cashew cream failed I had no marscapone on hand. Nor did I remember to get mint for the soup. So what I had was pureed strawberries, fruit and a little sugar. As a lover of smoothies, I found it wonderful – velvety, refreshing and cleansing. Simon Rimmer in The Accidental Vegetarian describes it as ‘like a good snog’. The addition of passionfruit is a stroke of genius for the contrasts of its tart flavour and seedy texture against the smooth sweetness of the soup. In fact it was so good I even considered the possibility of pureeing the whole lot and serving it as a smoothie.

E doesn’t like smoothies. He doesn’t like chilled soup. He is not that keen on fruit. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that he wasn’t at all keen on the soup. In fact, I happily ate most of his. Bit of a shame on our wedding anniversary but I know he loved the first course. Besides he has his little pleasures. He got to choose the music! He also got some enjoyment from discussion of how much it looked like an alien lifeform in a sci-fi movie! So I don't think he really missed out. But maybe there will be a dessert for E coming up soon.

Even if E is not a fan, I hope to try this soup again before autumn blows around again. I can think of others who would love this soup. It would be fantastic in the height of summer which will be with us all too soon. In the blogosphere, I am sure Holler and Lisa will love it and send it their way for No Croutons Required.

Strawberry Soup
(adapted from The Accidental Vegetarian)
Serves 2-4

500g strawberries, hulled
1½ tbsp castor sugar
½ cup apple juice (or dessert wine)
4-5 pieces of tinned unsweetened peaches (or 1 ripe), diced
125g raspberries
Pulp of 2 passionfruit
Marscapone (or cashew cream) and mint leaves to serve (optional)

Blend strawberries and sieve (discard seeds). Mix puree with remaining ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with marscapone and mint leaves or serve as is. Tastes great the next day too.

On the Stereo:
With my little ukulele in my hand: Various Artists

11 comments:

  1. Happy Anniversary! The soup sure looks delicious!

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  2. Happy Annivesary! Sounds like a lovely dinner.

    So sorry about the cream! But it can't be made in a food processor--has to be a blender (the recipe did say blender, but I've gone back to clarify that is HAS to be a blender). With a food processor, I think a raw cashew butter might work. Oh, well, when you visit Canada, I'll whip some up for you so you can try it ;)

    The soup does look gorgeous, though! Makes me want to go out and buy frozen versions of the fruit so I can give it a try.

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  3. ooh! that all looks so delicious :)

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  4. Wonderful Johanna! This will definitely be winging it's way to No Croutons Required and I will be making it soon, with mascarpone. Yum!

    The line-up and voting poll will be up tomorrow.

    Good Luck!

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  5. Like a good snog, eh?

    Well, no wonder you chose such a soup with which to celebrate your anniversary!

    Congrats to you both and I must say, I'd eat this by the bucket-load at this time of the year. Gorgeous entry!

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  6. thanks Mary - I actually thought it tasted better than it photographed

    thanks Ricki - I did remember you making the distinction between the food processor and blender once before - but only after my cream went haywire - most recipes I can use my food processor or stick blender even if they say blender but I guess some I have to accept I can't do unless I get a proper blender - or visit you in Canada :-)

    thanks Susan - it was delish

    thanks Lisa - I hope to try it with marscapone too some time

    thanks Lucy - I'd eat this by the bucketload too - but seemed a bit of a treat at this time of year - can't wait for the summer fruit to hit the shops!

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  7. That looks like a soup I could take to, even if E didn't! Happy anniversary to you both. :-)

    Although Ricki says you can't make the cashew cream in a food processor, I've made a couple of similar cashew cream/milks in ours with moderate success. I've found through trial and error that the most successful approach is to grind the cashews alone, past the sandy stage until they're butter, before slowly adding the liquid. Perhaps if you didn't like the flavour of what you ended up with, this version wouldn't be for you anyway.

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  8. Your entry is up on the No Croutons Required September roundup, along with the voting poll.

    Good Luck
    :)

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  9. Happy anniversary! It sounds as though you had a lovely meal and extra nice that you went to so much effort to use local fruits. I always have that problem blitzing up nuts and seeds in my processor too. I've just bought a little coffee grinder to see if that doesn't any better - I'll let you know.

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  10. Happy anniversary -- that strawberry soup looks absolutely fantastic. And what a great idea to stuff left over burrito filling in a zucchini!

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  11. thanks Cindy - I did wonder if part of my problem was putting everything in the food processor together - my natural inclination is to grind the cashews first - I think what I really dislike is all the sweetner that these vegan creams seem to call for - will try again some time but not rushing!

    thanks Holler - the round up is another great collection of dishes!

    thanks Lysy - it is nice to put a bit of effort in to mark an occasion - will be interested to hear how you go with the coffee grinder

    thanks Happy Vegetarian - yes the soup was fab and as for the zucchinis - I always love them stuffed!

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