Flower soup. How fragrant and delicate that sounds. In Mexico they use the flower of the courgette or the squash. There are many different versions of this soup, with corn, with mushrooms, with chicken; my version is vegetarian. How to get hold of the flowers? They aren't cheap unfortunately, and I've yet to see a supermarket that sells them. Befriend a gardener, they may, if they have a good crop, sacrifice some of their courgettes or pumpkins. Once you pick the flowers, the plant won't fruit. (Update: a reader suggested asking for the male flowers, the big ones without the courgette attached, as they don't fruit). Or grow your own...we will be explaining how at the Secret Garden Garden 'Food of the Americas' session on the first of September. Buy tickets here, £30 for the gardening workshop and supper.
Accompanied with corn tortillas, this soup makes a hearty starter or main course for high summer.
Ingredients:1 ancho chilli, seeds removed and split in half
2 red peppers
75 g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 corn on the cobs, corn kernals removed
4 baby courgettes, sliced lengthways into quarters, or 2 large courgettes, sliced into rounds
300 g button mushrooms, finely sliced
10 squash or courgette flowers, the stems and interior sepals removed and torn into strips
a handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
corn tortillas, to serve
Find the rest of this recipe on the Good Food Channel here.
A word about chillis:
We tend not to be able to grow or buy the correct fresh Mexican chillis in the UK so we are obliged to buy the dried versions. ( I feel like Elizabeth David in the 1950s complaining about not being able to buy fresh herbs or olive oil in the UK. I do hope suppliers start to grow things that cooks actually want: poblanos, tomatillos, yuzu.)
In this recipe, we would normally use three poblano chillis which are large and mild, rather like a smoky green pepper. I've replaced that with the dried version 'Ancho' which is readily available on food websites e.g: http://www.capsicana.co.uk/shop/whole-chillies
The technique with dried chillis is this: Removing the stem and seeds, splitting it and briefly dry roasting it on the hob until it slightly changes colour, then soak it in a little hot water (enough to cover the chilli) for ten minutes until soft. Then I grind it up in a food processor or in a mortar and pestle and add to my dish.