THE most perfect chilled soup I have ever enjoyed was at Spain's famous elBulli restaurant in Spain.

As with so much of chef Ferran Adria's remarkable cooking, it was not what it seemed. Guests were instructed by the waiters to glug the shot glass of soup back in one go. Initially, it was almost too hot to endure, then, magically, it switched to chilled pea soup in the lower half of the glass. Hot soup had been ladled carefully on top of chilled, but to the eye, it was indistinguishable. The icy coolness soothed the almost unbearable heat; suddenly you could appreciate not only the beautiful flavour but the sheer, refreshing pleasure that cold soup can deliver.

I love eating (and serving) chilled soups but I often sense a mixed reaction among diners. The king of them all, tomato gazpacho, has almost become a victim of its own spicy, sharp perfection, showing up everywhere from pubs to the world's smartest restaurants. The quality and authenticity varies hugely. Perhaps this contributes to uncertainty among guests. The simple blend of tomatoes, peppers, onion and cucumber, made without deviating from the simple formula, is summer in a bowl.

Cold cucumber makes another classic chilled soup, brought to life with the aniseed hint of tarragon, while pea and mint is as refreshing as a cool breeze on an airless, scorched day. Add a dollop of crème fraiche, an elegantly wide (and chilled) bowl, for stylish summer dining at its most delicious.


Recipes serve 6

8 very ripe plum tomatoes

1 red and 1 green pepper

1 cucumber

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 red onion, peeled

2-3 tbsp olive oil

120-150ml white wine vinegar, to taste

2 slices good quality white bread, crusts on, or rolls

120ml tomato juice

Some leaves and/or sprigs of basil (optional)


1. Starting at least eight hours in advance: slice the tomatoes (about ½cm thick) and place in a large bowl. Season lightly with salt and a very small amount of sugar and toss well. Slice the cucumber (leave skin on) and add to the tomatoes. Halve the peppers, remove seeds and pith then roughly chop the flesh and add to the mix. Slice the garlic and onion finely and add; tear up the bread and (if using) the basil then throw into the mix. Finally add the olive oil, most of the vinegar and the tomato juice, then spend a good minute stirring and tossing together thoroughly. Cover with cling film tightly and leave in the fridge for eight hours or overnight. If possible, stir a couple of times during this time.

2. The next day, transfer the mixture to the jug of a food blender (you may need to work in batches) and process thoroughly at a high speed. Transfer to a container once processed. Continue until all the base mix has been pureed. Now stir really thoroughly with a whisk before tasting. Adjust with vinegar or salt as required: it should be quite bracing and piquant. If you think it is overly thick (and in my view, it should be fairly thickish to be authentic) you can always add a drop of tomato juice or even a little water.

3. Transfer to the fridge for several hours. Some people pop a few ice cubes in at this stage although I personally find it makes it rather awkward to serve

4. To serve, ensure bowls are lightly chilled. Give the gazpacho one more whisk then ladle between bowls. You can finish with a sprinkling of torn basil leaves or finely snipped chives. I also like a scoop of soft goat's curd spooned into the middle. Add a drizzle of olive oil to each bowl then serve at once.

Chilled pea, lettuce and mint soup

1.2kg young peas in the pod (to give about 450g shelled peas) or use defrosted frozen peas

8 large spring onions, finely sliced

30g butter

750ml vegetable stock or water

1 head of little gem, root removed, leaves shredded

2 rashers finely chopped pancetta, optional

150ml double cream

1 dstsp crème fraiche per serving to finish

A handful of mint leaves


1. In a large pan, melt the butter (don't let it brown), then add the spring onions. Add a little salt then sweat them gently over a low heat until soft. Add the pancetta and continue to fry gently for a further five minutes.

2. Add the peas, sweat for a few minutes, then add the water or stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes (the peas must be very tender).

3. Add the cream and return briefly to the boil, throw in the shredded lettuce leaves, then stir once more so they get stirred in and can wilt, then transfer the contents of the pan into a wide bowl and set this either over another bowl of iced water or a sink of iced water. Patiently stir to cool it rapidly; this will help preserve the fresh green colour. Now shred and add the mint leaves.

4. Once cold, transfer to the jug of a blender (work in batches if necessary), process to a puree then press through a sieve, using the back of a ladle to help press it all through. Taste for seasoning and correct the consistency if necessary if it seems too thick.

5. Chill in the fridge for several hours. Stir well again before serving. Serve in chilled bowls with a small dollop of crème fraiche in the centre of each bowl.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206