Thursday, January 8, 2009

The picnic that wasn’t

I had such wonderful intentions of having a picnic on New Year’s Day. So much so that I spent most of NYE chopping, stirring and baking in preparation. The weather report was most encouraging for the three days before new year’s – sunny and 29 degrees. Perfect!

So imagine my annoyance when the temperature soared to 35 degrees – not so perfect. Needless to say, it was too hot to venture out, so the picnic lunch I’d prepared sat waiting in the fridge.

The recipes are from Gordon Ramsay, specifically for alfresco dining. We had the chilled soup that day anyway, as it was absolutely perfect for the hot weather, served straight from the fridge rather than a Thermos flask.

We had the chicken and couscous a day later, microwaved in the plastic containers I’d put them in, then transferred to a civilised plate for eating in front of the TV.

Here is the recipe for the soup – it is a real winner; give it a try on the next hot day!

Chilled cucumber and dill soup

Serves 4

Make this soup a day ahead, transport it to your picnic (ha!) in a flask and serve in small teacup-sized bowls or punch glasses.


1 litre (4 cups) good-quality chicken stock
2 baby leeks or 1 regular leek (white part only), finely chopped
2 eschalots, finely chopped
8 whole white peppercorns
2-3 parsley stalks
2 ¼ large telegraph cucumbers
2 tsp arrowroot (I used cornflour)
1 tbs finely chopped fresh dill
200ml crème fraiche
¼ small red onion
1 tsp lemon juice


Bring stock to boil in a saucepan. Add leeks, eschalots, peppercorns and parsley stalks, and simmer for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.

Peel 2 of the cucumbers. Halve them lengthways and remove seeds with a teaspoon. Cut flesh into 1 cm slices, then place in a colander and season with freshly ground salt. Stand for 10 minutes to draw out any excess water or bitterness from the cucumber.

Rinse in plenty of cold water and drain well. Add the cucumber to the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Transfer to a blender, process until smooth, then return soup to the pan.

Mix arrowroot with 1 tablespoon water and add to the soup. Heat gently over low heat, stirring until soup begins to thicken – do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add dill and crème fraiche, mixing well – you may wish to use a handheld blender.

Chill in fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.

For the salsa, finely dice remaining cucumber, place in a bowl with the onion and lemon juice, and season well. Cover and chill.

Pour the soup into a flask. At the picnic, serve soup topped with the salsa.

Recipe from delicious. November 2005

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