The Challenge: Soup For The Neighbours

One of the upsides of lockdown is that neighbours have suddenly become very neighbourly. Carrier bags of ‘stuff’ keep appearing at my gate; last week it was rhubarb, this week it’s lovage.

Of course this is all very nice, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. In order for me to reciprocate and enter into the neighbourly spirit, it seems I have to make things from said ‘stuff’ and return it whence it came. So, last week I was making rhubarb and custard tarts and leaving them on Mark’s doorstep, but this week… what the hell I can do with a bag of lovage is a far bigger challenge!

It’s not a herb we Brits use a great deal. It arrives in the garden mid to late spring and sticks around right through til’ autumn. It belongs to the celery family and really does resemble celery; tall, green and leafy.

Flavour-wise it’s super powerful; the Germans use it a lot and consider it a vital part of any bouquet garni. In Germany, it’s referred to as Maggi Kraut; (Maggi Herb), due to the fact that it has that unique Maggi-like, umami flavour. It also has healthful qualities… “good for flushing out the kidneys”, so I’m told.

Lovage works well with peas; so a pea, potato and lovage soup was a knocking bet. Neighbours love soup, right? It also works really well with raw tomatoes, in a salad with goat’s curd, broad beans and spring onions, although tomatoes aren’t really at their best right now unless you can find some Isle of Wight early varieties. It’s also surprisingly good deep-fried, either as it is or in a very light tempura-type batter. Prepared like this, it would give a lovely flavour hit to a roast rack of spring lamb with asparagus and Jersey Royals.

 

The Challenge: Lovage Soup For The Neighbours

 

Pea, Lovage & Jersey Potato Soup… For The Neighbours

 

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the vegetable stock and sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in the podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes until the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a knob of butter and maybe a dollop of crème fraiche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add a litre and a half of vegetable stock and 200g sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in 400g of podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes till the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose
their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a nob of butter and
maybe a dollop of crème fraîche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Share your own neighbourly lockdown creations on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.