A heavenly chilled soup for a warm summer evening. It is a brilliant green colour, but I sometimes whisk in a good dollop of crème fraîche for a special occasion, so that the colour changes to a pretty pastel green, which looks just as good and tastes divine.
- 1 small Florence fennel bulb
- 2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped (exclude the green parts)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to garnish
- 600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock or potato water
- a dash of gin (optional)
- 2 cucumbers, washed and coarsely grated (set 6 tablespoons aside for garnish)
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) sliced smoked salmon or royal fillet
- fennel or dill sprigs, to garnish
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Trim the fronds off the fennel and reserve for garnish. Halve the fennel bulb and cut out the tough triangular core. Slice or chop the flesh finely. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the fennel and spring onions and a splash of water to help it cook. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until soft. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add the gin if using (only 1 teaspoon), and stir in the cucumber (put the reserved cucumber into a small sieve or colander over a bowl until ready to serve - this will drain off excess water).
- Transfer the soup to a liquidiser (not a food processor) and blend until smooth. (Alternatively do this in the pan with a hand blender.) Remove from the heat and strain through a coarse sieve into a metal bowl set in ice-cold water. Cooling the soup quickly will keep the colour nice and green. Taste and season, then chill.
- To serve, cut the smoked salmon into strips or cube the fillet. Ladle the soup into wide, chilled, soup bowls, arranging the salmon and drained cucumber in a mound in the centre of each. Scatter the fennel or dill sprigs over and trickle a little olive oil around.
- If you want to serve a bright green soup, but still want the luxury of the cream, spoon a blob into the centre of each bowl then top with the cucumber and smoked salmon. This soup is also particularly good drizzled with a few drops of lemon-infused olive oil.