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This started out as a supposedly simple soup supper, as I wanted to have a light dinner in order to have the impetus to nip out for a swim. When we had a glut of courgettes in the summer, I made a lovely soup of courgettes and parmesan and this was inspired by that. So although it’s neither seasonal, nor homegrown (I had a glut of basics range courgettes if that counts for anything), the soup turned out superbly. It wasn’t however, simple. It soon turned into an elaborate dinner involving homemade baguette, courgette and fennel soup with caramelised shallots and fennel. It was worth the extra bit of effort. It was sublime. I wish I could say the same for the swim.

For The Caramelised Shallots and Fennel

½  fennel bulb, halved then thinly sliced lengthways

2 shallots, halved, then thinly sliced

1 courgette, thinly sliced lengthways (I used a cheese slicer)

1 tblsp red wine vinegar

2 tblsp olive oil

Mix the fennel and shallots in a bowl and leave to marinade whilst making a start on the soup. Once the soup is simmering, heat a skillet, and then roast the fennel and shallots in a hot oven (230c) for about half an hour. Turn occasionally, until sweet and brown. Add the courgette ten minutes towards the end, along with a sprinkling of sea salt.

For The Soup – Serves 4

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways, then sliced into 1cm chunks

½ fennel bulb, diced

2 shallots, thinly sliced

Dash of sherry

750ml chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 tblsp fresh thyme and oregano leaves

Good glug of double cream

Good knob of parmesan, shaved

Melt a large knob of butter in a wide saucepan. Gently fry the shallots and fennel for about ten minutes. Add the diced courgettes and another knob of butter and continue cooking for a further ten minutes (season with salt halfway through). Next add the sherry, stock and herbs, season and simmer for about twenty minutes. Blitz with hand-held food processor. Pour in the cream, and most of the parmesan shavings, check seasoning. The soup is then ready to go.

Ladle into bowls, top with the vegetables and the remaining parmesan. Be warned that swimming is ill-advised.

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