Valentine Warner's Courgette Soup with Chard Bruschetta Tarragon and Lemon
So often I get asked what to do with the glut of courgettes that fill a grower’s arms, apron or basket. Here is a recipe based on a soup that I ate in Italy. It was so good I ordered it again that night (I ate in that same restaurant for dinner after a long circular walk that conveniently brought me back to its front door).
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
7-9 medium courgettes, cut into 3cm slices
3 cloves garlic
a good grate of nutmeg
a good grind of pepper
1 small stalk of rosemary
30g Parmesan rind
approx.1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, to finish
5 big leaves Swiss chard
extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and bread
flaked sea salt
a squeeze of lemon juice
6 thin slices of rustic bread or ciabatta
1 large clove good garlic
Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy pan and in it soften the onion over a medium heat for 8 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the courgettes with the garlic, nutmeg, pepper, rosemary and the rind piece from the end of your Parmesan wedge (the rind will give depth to the soup in the absence of stock). Mix everything together before covering with a lid and leaving to cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this time the courgettes should be very soft whilst retaining a pleasant green colour. Pick out the rosemary stalk, which will have dropped its leaves.
While the courgettes sweat it out, start making the bruschetta. Put a pan of water on to boil. Rip up the chard leaves and boil them in salted water for 5 minutes or so until tender. Drain thoroughly and chop it very finely while still hot. Put the chard in a bowl with a very generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil, some salt, to taste, and a light squeeze of lemon juice - just enough to give it a little edge. Leave the chard to one side. Turn on the grill to full.
To finish the soup, add the milk to the courgettes and gently simmer for 10 minutes or so without the lid. Do not let the soup boil. Take out the Parmesan rind and purée the soup until very smooth in a food processor or with a stick blender. Return it to the pan and place over a very low heat to keep it hot. Season generously with salt - probably a little more than you may normally use.
Splash the slices of bread with more olive oil and toast them under the grill until a rich golden colour. They do not want to be shatter-dry but instead a little chewy in the middle. When cooked, rub them with the garlic.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Load some chard onto the bruschetta then placing them onto the soup. Grate Parmesan over the bruschetta and slash the soup with one last pass of olive oil. Eat with a glass of good white wine.
Taken from The Good Table by Valentine Warner published September 2011 by Mitchell Beazley. Photograph by Jonathan Lovekin