Chilled summer herb soup

Serves 4-6
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I've been making this soup for years and it tastes slightly different every time depending on the strength of the herbs used. You can vary the herbs, but I find that the stronger ones like thyme, rosemary, coriander and tarragon dominate and overwhelm the subtle fragrance of the soup. I've used a bit of flour, like an old-fashioned roux, to thicken the soup but it doesn't taste of anything and when it's cooked and blended you wouldn't know it was there. I've tried using potato instead to thicken it, but you just don't get that silky consistency.

I've been making this soup for years and it tastes slightly different every time depending on the strength of the herbs used. You can vary the herbs, but I find that the stronger ones like thyme, rosemary, coriander and tarragon dominate and overwhelm the subtle fragrance of the soup. I've used a bit of flour, like an old-fashioned roux, to thicken the soup but it doesn't taste of anything and when it's cooked and blended you wouldn't know it was there. I've tried using potato instead to thicken it, but you just don't get that silky consistency.

If you grow your own herbs, this is the perfect way to use up your prunings when they start to bolt or get out of control. Last year I had an abundance of lovage, which is too overpowering to put in the soup, so I used a tempura batter to turn the leaves into fritters and served them as an accompaniment.

1 small fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1tbsp vegetable oil
1tbsp flour
1.5litre vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of parsley, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
A handful of chervil, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
A handful of basil, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
Approx 10g chives
A few mint leaves

Gently cook the fennel, onion and leek in the vegetable oil in a covered pan for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring every so often. Add the flour and stir well then gradually add the vegetable stock and season. Bring to the boil; add the thicker reserved herb stalks and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs and simmer for 2 more minutes only.

Blend until smooth in a liquidiser then strain through a medium strainer, as a fine-meshed sieve will not allow some of the bits of herbs through. To keep its green colour, you need to cool the soup down as quickly as possible, so put the bowl of strained soup over another bowl of iced water. Re season if necessary and serve from the fridge. If you feel like it, garnish with finely chopped herbs, cream or crème fraîche or even fresh goat's cheese.

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