The weather is hot and muggy as it always is in June. It is time for salads, ice cream and, yes, cold soups.
But we don't think of it and, instead, consume soups that are steaming hot and braises that are rich and warming.
We really should make more of cold food in our hot, humid weather.
Wouldn't you like to have something cool slip down your throat rather than hot steaming foods that bring on the perspiration?
I must confess that I do not drink much cold soups myself, aside from the gazpacho made from raw vegetables that I turn out now and then.
Carrot and ginger soup with dill oil and seaweed topping
•450g carrots, unpeeled, cut into pieces
•5 to 6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
•1 tsp grated ginger
•Dill oil, made with a bunch of dill weeds and stems, processed in a food chopper with oil and a pinch of salt
Furikake, a Japanese rice topping sold in packets at Japanese supermarkets (choose one with nori seaweed and bonito flakes)
•Put carrot pieces into a saucepan and add stock. I used vegetable stock, but you could opt for packaged organic chicken stock.
•Bring to the boil and then simmer till carrots are soft and can be pierced easily with a fork. Taste and add salt if needed.
•Add grated ginger and blitz the soup, using a hand-held stab blender till smooth.
•Chill in the fridge till needed.
•Before serving, dish out soup in bowls.
•Add a few dollops of dill oil and top with furikake, which is salty, so go easy on it.
SERVES FOUR TO SIX
The attraction is that you do not have to cook anything but just blitz the veggies, seasoned with salt, pepper and, in my case, chilli.
The cold carrot soup, which was a hit at my friend's dinner party, was made from carrots and ginger, topped with dill oil and some flaked almonds.
It was smooth and silky, with a welcome crunch from toasted almond flakes and pretty with dots of brilliant green from the dill oil.
Back home, I tried it out. I eschewed the almonds, which I didn't have, and used some furikake (Japanese rice topping of seaweed and bonito flakes) which I had.
The dill oil was easy because I have a patch of wild dill growing outside my kitchen. A few branches of this aromatic herb, chopped in a food processor with olive oil and salt, made short work of it.
It would also do as a topping for fish or to add to chicken stew, cooked with fennel (the other aniseed-flavoured bulb) and artichokes.
But the soup was a revelation. It was sweet from the carrots, full- bodied even though I used a vegetable stock rather than chicken, and, yes, refreshing. The toppings gave added interest to the mouthful and the scraping of ginger (from a frozen root) a bit of a bite.
A squeeze of lemon juice, rather than the creme fraiche my friend used, offered spritely balance to the sweet silkiness.
And there is little effort.
If you're entertaining, you could make the soup in the morning and leave it in the fridge to serve cold in the evening.
Plus there is goodness in that bowl. Carrots are well known for their antioxidant properties, but the benefits include reduced cholesterol, warding off certain cancers, improving vision and reducing the signs of premature ageing.
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that also helps with nausea and motion sickness, and dill has antifungal, antibacterial and anti- oxidant properties.
Try making this soup one hot sultry night. It would do wonders not only for your palate but also for your digestion.
By the way, for those who cannot stomach the idea of cold soups, it is rather nice served warm too.
- Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.