I make a promise to myself every year. It is a solemn promise. And always earnest. It is this: that I will not, under any circumstances, no matter how giddy I get, plant all my lettuce seeds at once. No lettuce glut!
I made that same promise to myself this year in March. By May, flushed with the growing fever, I had abandoned all reason, forgot my vows and planted ACRES of lettuce. Acres. And now I am dealing with the consequences – lettuce glut upon lettuce glut.
But the trouble is that these consequences aren’t exactly dissuasive. I just have to eat a lot of really tasty lettuce. Tough work. Especially when I get to make things like this lovely lettuce soup.
Whilst reflecting on my lettuce-growing foolishness, I was nipping out the tips of the broad beans. I do this most years when I remember because, apart from preventing black fly congregating in the fresh shoots and stunting the growth of the plant, they also taste wonderful – like sweet, young broad beans. They add a lovely ‘green’ tang to the soup, but obviously you can make this dish without them if you don’t grow broad beans.
This soup works happily on its own, but I’ve been reading an Ottolenghi recipe for cigar shaped croutons in his Nopi book so I’ve bastardised that and used something similar here. They make cracking canapés too.
Lettuce Glut and Broad Bean Tip Soup with Goats Cheese Croutons
For the soup:
- 1/2 onion
- Knob of butter
- 1 very large hearting green lettuce like Little Gem or a Butterhead. Not Iceberg (too dull) not a Frisee (too bitter)
- 500g chicken stock
- Handful of broad bean tips
- Handful of frozen peas (or fresh if yours didn’t die like mine did)
- Dollop of creme fraiche to serve
For the cigar croutons:
- 2 thick rectangular slices of white bread, crusts removed
- 2 tbsp soft goats cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 50g quick cook polenta
- Sunflower oil for frying
To make the soup, finely slice the onion and sweat in a little butter until translucent but not browned. Add the stock and bring to a delicate simmer.
Wash and roughly chop the lettuce then add to the simmering pot with the broad bean tips and peas. Season with salt and simmer for no more than 2 minutes before removing from the heat.
Whizz to a smooth, creamy texture. You can use a stick blender for this but I find the NutriBullet gives a perfect texture in moments. Adjust the seasoning and serve with a swirl of creme fraiche and a turn of pepper.
If you’re making the croutons, which I highly recommend since they add a much needed crunch to dish, then take a rolling pin to your slices of bread and roll them until they are dense. You want something about 3mm thick. Cut each slice in half so you have 4 rectangles roughly 5x10cm. Spread a scant teaspoon of goats cheese on each rectangle and roll them up tightly from the long edge to make 4 cigars. You can press them with your hands to make them keep their shape. Brush each cigar with beaten egg then coat in polenta. Pop them in the fridge for at least an hour, but up to a day, to firm up then shallow fry for 4-5 minutes, turning regularly until golden brown all over. Serve immediately.
See. This really isn’t going to stop me planting too much lettuce now is it?