Autumn may officially be upon us but I’m still hanging on by a corn thread to the last fruits and vegetables of the French summer. Somehow corn on the cob has been rare this year outside Paris and while I could find them prepackaged and wilting under cellophane in the supermarket, when I saw a pile of fresh corn at our local farmers’ market last week, I pounced on them like there was no tomorrow.
I first tasted the most creamy sweetcorn soup on our last visit to South Africa in the French colonial wine town of Franschhoek, near Cape Town. Antoine and I had splashed out to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Grande Provence, where the chef had bowled us over with his soup (quick pause here for a pun groan). It was simply but elegantly poured at the table from a white porcelain milk jug into an oversized rimmed porcelain bowl, serving as a moat around a heap of turnip purée and crowned with a gigantic tempura prawn, along with a few other fancy green garnishes.
I was in awe. Antoine knows that these kind of special eating-out moments are always a good investment, as I’ll probably try to copy the experience at home. Well, in this case, without the fancy frills part. Over the last couple of years, this creamy, velvety velouté soup has turned into a much simpler but delicious starter for dinner guests. To cut the sweetness, I added red pepper and a hint of smoked paprika. Smaller helpings of this is better, as it is pretty rich. If you can’t find fresh corn on the cob (which really is best), then use frozen kernels and 3/4 litre vegetable stock.
Sweetcorn and Red Pepper Creamy Soup Recipe
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
3 fresh corns on the cob
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 sprigs flat parsley leaves
100g single cream
1. Rip off the outer leaves and threads and snap off the bases with a twist of the wrist. Cut the kernels from the cobs and throw them into a large heavy-based pan, including the bare cobs (this will help make your natural stock). Pour over just enough water to cover the lot (about 1.25 litres) and bring to the boil then boil for another 5 minutes.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and soften the onion and pepper gently over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until translucent then add the smoked paprika. Meanwhile, using a strainer, remove and discard the cobs. Strain off the corn and add to the onion and peppers. Continue to gently soften for another 5 minutes and continue to reduce the corn stock during this time.
3. Add the sweetcorn stock and cream to the vegetables and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the parsley and season to taste then liquidise either in a blender or using a stick blender. If the soup is too thick, I add a dash of semi-skimmed milk.
Serve with fresh bread and salted butter or why not a savoury macaron if you prefer gluten-free? (Savoury macaron recipes are in my first book, Mad About Macarons!). Toe-curling with a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc wine.