Summertime pepper soup

Summertime isn’t the most soupy time of year, I know, but if you get lucky with a large bag of veg and don’t have either time nor inclination to do something fancy with it, soup is a quick and easy tastebud treat.

I wouldn’t normally suggest a pepper soup, given that you’d probably need at least 3 packs of supermarket peppers at around £1.50-£2.00 each, but as hinted at above, I got lucky with a big bag of about 8 yellow and red peppers for £1. They were on their last legs, so you wouldn’t want to do anything more exciting with them, but this soup …. hell yeah!

And by the way, the same method will work for other summer veg, including tomatoes, courgettes, sweetcorn, sweet potato and even cauliflower (although the temptation to add a metric tonne of cheese to this may be strong). I personally wouldn’t do swedes, cabbage or broccoli this way, but that’s because I am not at all keen on cabbage soup or anything that smells like it. Personal prejudice only.

Summertime pepper soup

  • 6-8 or more red, orange and yellow peppers
  • 1-2 small onions, chopped
  • 4+ garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 L stock or water plus veggie stock powder
  • 1 scant tsp sugar (optional)
  • Some double [heavy] cream (optional)

1. Separate the peppers from their cores and split them a little to lay flat on a baking tray, skin up (flesh-side down).

2. Drizzle them in oil.

3. Grill them slowly, on a low heat, not too high in the grill space. The idea is that the skins turn a bit blackened and the peppers cook. You’ll find you get some bits that bubble up black and others that don’t seem to do anything. Rule of thumb, the more cooked the pepper itself is, the easier it will be to skin later. The skins take on a plasticky character, a little like tough cellophane.

4. Pop the blackened peppers into a plastic bag and spin it closed so the steam can’t escape. Leave for a few minutes till they’ve cooled a bit.

Pepper skins stripped from the grilled peppers
Skins once removed from the peppers

5. Once cooled, fish them out (I used a pair of tongs) and strip the skins off. Doesn’t matter if you leave some skin on if it’s stubborn—life’s too short to fight it really, but if they’re all like that, they maybe need a bit more time under the grill. Watch out for burnt fingers! They retain the heat, so it’s fine to leave them longer till they’ve actually cooled.

Grilled peppers stripped of their skins.
Stripped peppers. You’d never know they were wrinkly and a bit sad looking 20 minutes ago.

6. Melt the butter in a large soup pan with the oil, and throw your chopped onion and garlic in as it all warms up. Saute till softish and transluscent, but best not to brown it.

1-2 chopped onions and a few cloves of chopped garlic.
About this much onion and garlic.

7. Slice up the soft flesh of the peppers and add to the pan.

8. Pour in about 1.5 L stock or water and stock powder (follow directions on powder box), bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 30 mins. You should be able to mash the peppers with a fork really easily, that’s how you know it’s cooked.

9. Take a handblender or pour it into a food processor or blender, and if you have neither, get ready to mash the peppers with whatever you normally use. For the latter, you can push it through a metal sieve for a blended effect, though I hate this particular job. (My stick blender is the only kitchen gadget I couldn’t do without because soooooooooo lazy).

10. Taste, add salt if necessary, heat through a little more and let stand in the pan. If it tastes a little bitter, add a scant teaspoon of sugar. Soups always taste better if they have cooled and been reheated, but if you can’t, you can’t.

11. Serve with cream drizzled into the bowl. Most pepper soup recipes state to add cream and warm it through, but this means a) anyone who lives with you that has a lactose issue will be left out and b) if you accidentally boil the soup while warming it, the cream may separate and the whole thing will look like vom. Better not to risk it!

12. Serve up with crusty buttered bread or toast!