Summertime… and the dining is outdoors. It’s the season we all count down to during the rest of the year. Teachers, school children and parents – everyone looks forward the longer, lighter days when the pace of life slows down – no more early alarms, after-school commitments or Sunday evening family-life panics. Even mealtimes slow down – no more eating on the run while en route to another commitment.
But the real bonus about summer is being able to eat outdoors. If you want that slower pace of life to continue, it pays to do some prep work earlier in the day or the day before. The casual nature of eating outdoors calls for easy-to-prepare dishes that will allow the cook to sit down and appreciate the joy of being outside.
Platters of crudités with dips are a great way to start any meal outside; guacamole is a real crowd-pleaser, which is so easy it can even be made at the table. Things like these are great for getting your kids involved in cooking – something people tend to feel they actually have time for in the summer. Barbecues and grilled food are obvious choices for outdoor meals – you can even cook your flatbreads for your dips on the grill!
Alongside dips, grilled meats, fish and a multitude of salads, chilled soups are a nice addition to the outdoor dining table. That may sound mad, but the nature of soup is that unless it’s on the stovetop, it does cool down – so why not just serve it cold?
Of course, not all soups lend themselves to a chilled presentation – however, there are a few that really work well – chilled cucumber soup and vichyssoise which can be eaten both hot and cold (great if the weather turns chilly in the evenings!).
Soups are also a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables, but some kids might not like a chilled soup and many don’t like the “leek” part of the leek and potato soup. Potatoes by themselves, on the other hand, tend to be a popular choice in many forms. Today I’m sharing a recipe for a potato soup that on its own is fairly plain, but when jazzed up with all sorts of add-ins tastes just like a baked potato, only chilled!
The plain potato soup is a starting point, and then everyone can customise their bowl (or shot glass – these are perfect for passing around as hors d’oeuvres). Not only is it easy to make in advance, but there’s lots of chopping to keep little hands busy if you kids want to help you. It makes for a fun and tasty addition to any picnic or patio table.
Chilled loaded “baked potato” soup recipe
Starter for 8 or 25 cocktail-sized portions
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onion, roughly chopped
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
- 680g (1.5lbs) small new potatoes (halved if they are larger than a ping-pong ball)
- 125g (½ cup) plain Greek yoghurt
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8-10 rashers bacon, finely diced and fried until crispy
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
- 8 green onions, finely sliced
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
- 1 handful of small croutons
Get a large pot on a high heat and add the oil. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion until it just starts to soften and turn translucent. Add in the stock and potatoes, increase the heat to high and bring it to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, or until you can mash the potatoes with the back of a fork. Allow to cool slightly, then blend in a blender or with a stick blender. Once you have completed this step you might like to add some extra water to thin the soup down – this is totally up to you and depends on whether you prefer a thinner or thicker soup.
Set aside to cool. When the soup is room temperature, add the Greek yoghurt. Stir to combine, then refrigerate until lunch or dinner time.
Serve up the cold soup at the table with bowls and all the garnishes out so people can dig in and top their own. If you’re serving up in shot glasses, make sure you have some small spoons so people can scoop out the garnishes from the bottom.