Now I know that it's currently June and you really don't want to be hearing about Christmas and I sympathise, I really do. You should know, however, that it takes New Covent Garden a fair old while to get the processing sorted out for a new soup, so they needed to start early!
Immediately upon hearing that it was to be a Christmas soup, I started to think about what flavours and smells say "Christmas" to you - even in the middle of June. I asked on Twitter and I asked the family, but in the end, I went with my own definition of what smells and tastes like Christmas to me.
First on the list was Satsumas. No matter when I break into a Satsuma or a Clementine, be it summer or winter, it immediately says "Christmas". I've even been know to go into the living room where son & heir has been munching on a Satsuma and say "smells like Christmas in here!".
Second on the list was Cloves. Now for all that I hate the little misbegotten spawn of the devil - sorry, was that a bit strong? *chuckle* - their aroma is just redolent of shiny baubles, robins wearing santa hats and tinsel. Every year, we make two or three satsumas studded with cloves and tied with a ribbon, to go on the Christmas tree - so I guess it isn't hard to see where the connection is!
Thirdly, is Cinnamon. Not necessarily the ground cinnamon, but cinnamon sticks. They have an earthier aroma than the ground version, I think. Again, we tie a few of those onto the Christmas tree each year.
Thinking on, I suppose I could have come over all Great British Menu and gone into the garden for some Douglas Fir needles - but (probably thankfully), I didn't think of that at the time. I was aiming for a light dessert soup that would be suitable for those who just don't fancy a big dessert after their Christmas dinner - or any big dinner, come to that!
|Beautiful little cranberry jewels!|
After that, it was just a matter of deciding upon the spicing. Cloves and cinnamon were a shoe-in, but after that we went through the entire gamut of spices that we had in the cupboard and rejected the like of star anise, nutmeg and mixed spice, in favour of green cardamom. The selection process was fairly scientific - we had the plain soup in front of us and could have a wee taste or a big sniff, then sniff the spice in its jar - and from that, it would tell you whether it would go or not. The cardamom, with its citrussy notes, was just perfect.
Yesterday morning, hubby and I set to in our test kitchen. Okay, it's the ordinary kitchen - but for the purpose, it became a test kitchen, alright? It felt important, that way.
|Without cream - so that you can see the segment pieces|
Two hours later, we had the most fabulous, refreshing yet rich, zestily citrus, fruitily cranberry, beautifully spiced soup. I spent a frustrating few minutes unzipping some more citrus segments from their pith - and the soup went into the fridge to chill.
I was a bit concerned that the chilling might kill off some of the spicing, but no - when it came out and was dressed with its celebratory swirl of whipped cream and the shreds of zest, it both looked beautiful and tasted amazing.
Everyone loved the soup. When I asked son & heir what he thought, completely unbidden, he said "tastes like Christmas". Ha! Mission accomplished, I thought! I'm not sure what degree of Vitamin C remains after the cooking process is done, but between the citrus fruit and the cranberries, surely there has to be a fair amount.
|Mixed 50:50 with Shiraz and warmed - gorgeous!|
Next up was my idea of using it as the base for a jelly. Heat it through, add some gelatine, pour into a jelly mould, chill and eat for dessert, or at a summer High Tea! So it's not just a Christmas soup!
In fact, with my next suggestion, it very definitely found its place as an "anytime" soup, as it occurred to me that if you reduced it down by half in a saucepan, it would make a fabulous jus to pair up with poached pears.
The possibilities are endless!
Now - I've a favour to ask of you. If you can bear it, could you go along to the New Covent Garden Soup Company's website and register, then vote for my soup? ~looks appealing, with puppy dog eyes and everything~ I'll be your best pal, honest!
SPICED SATSUMA AND CRANBERRY SOUP (serves 3-4)
75g cranberries, to make 1.5 dessertspoons of cranberry puree
2 tsp syrup from stem ginger jar
2 tsp runny honey
2 green cardamom, unbroken
a thumb-sized piece of Cinnamon bark
1. Place the cranberries into a small saucepan with a touch of water & cook on a medium heat to soften, until easily squashed with the back of a spoon. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
2. Separate out 3 satsumas and reserve. Juice the remainder through a sieve, into a bowl (to make a minimum of 400ml).
3. Take the orange and with a zester, cut sufficient long strips of zest for decoration and reserve. Using a microplane grater, grate the remainder of the zest finely and reserve. Juice the orange through a sieve into the satsuma juice in the bowl.
4. Press the cranberries through a sieve into another bowl, to remove large pips and most of the skin. You’ll need to scrape the puree from the underside of the sieve.
5. Add cranberry puree to the satsuma juice by degrees, tasting as you go, to ensure the cranberries don’t overpower the citrus. Once you are happy with the balance, transfer to the small saucepan and begin to warm through on a low heat.
6. Add the ginger syrup, honey, spices and 1.5 teaspoons of the fine grated orange zest and stir to combine. Allow the liquid to warm through until steaming, but do not simmer or boil. Once steaming, cover with a lid and remove from the heat.
7. Allow the spices to infuse for 2 hours, then pick them out and discard.
8. Taking the reserved satsumas, peel and segment them. Then remove the pith from around each segment and, breaking each segment into pieces, add the flesh to the cooled liquid.
9. Place into the fridge to chill and serve in glass bowls with a swirl of whipped cream and the shreds of zest to decorate.