Cold soups in the summer are often overlooked but they make a refreshing dinner party starter. In the following recipes I have tried to combine the flavours, textures and colours of summer so that you can suitably impress your dinner guests without too much fuss.
But what might look striking to the eye may disappoint the palate, so making a cold soup flavoursome is of the utmost importance. A good blender is also a crucial piece of kit if you want to create a silky-smooth soup: among the best makes are KitchenAid, Magimix and Waring.
There are no hard and fast rules for cold soups, except to keep it all as simple as possible and resist the temptation of adding too many elements. You can have fun with classic combinations such as salmon and cucumber or, as I've done below, create a soup based on a bloody Mary!
Summer squash soup with goat's curd
There are some interesting members of the squash family around in the summer that are great for making a colourful soup. They all have unusual names that are difficult to remember but the important thing is to buy squashes with flavour and colour for the soup base. An orange fleshed squash, such as butternut, is a safe buy and is available for most of the year.
Some of the smaller squashes, such as patty pans and green and yellow courgettes, are good for the garnish along with some of the squash you have used for the soup base.
Any good quality cheese shop, such as Neal's Yard Dairy, will sell goat's curd, which has a really neutral flavour compared with more mature goat's cheese.
1 small leek, chopped, washed and drained
1tbsp olive oil
1kg orange flesh of summer squash, such as onion squash or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (reserve some chunks for the garnish)
500ml vegetable stock (a good quality cube will do)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A selection of small squashes, including the above, or green and/or yellow courgettes
1tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
A tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil
4 small spoonfuls of goat's curd or fromage frais
Gently cook the leek in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the squash and stock, bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then simmer for 20 minutes. Blend the soup in a liquidiser until smooth, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve if necessary, season if required and refrigerate for a few hours until chilled.
Meanwhile, peel the small squashes for the garnish and cut into even-sized pieces and do the same with the courgette if using. You should ideally try to have different shapes like wedges, chunks etc. Cook them in boiling salted water until tender, then drain and cool.
To serve, pour the soups into large, chilled soup bowls or soup plates about 2-3cm deep, arrange the squashes in the centre and spoon some goat's curd on top. Spoon over a little olive oil and scatter the pumpkin seeds over.