I've been looking at food blogs for a while now, and I love finding a blog that keeps me entertained for days while reading all the posts, bookmarking recipes, and sampling some of the dishes. I have a few ultimate favourites, and What's for lunch honey? is one of them. Not only does the lovely Meeta provide me with hours of reading entertainment, her recipes are truly delicious and her photographs inspiring.
And this wonderful blog is 4 years old! To celebrate, the Monthly Mingle theme this month is Champagne. Very appropriate indeed. And I immediately knew what I wanted to make: Strawberry, watermelon and champagne soup with olives, feta and basil. I made a soup like this a few years back for our New Year's eve party. More of this soon, but I have something to tell you first. You know how people all over the world have parties on New Year's eve, with lovely food and too much champagne? And you know how people think this is to celebrate the New Year? Well, actually, no. You see, it's to celebrate my birthday, which is on New Year's day. At midnight, all over the world, people have a glass of champagne on me. I'm sure all the other people whose birthday is on the 1st of January as well think it's for them, but they're mistaken. It's for me.
Therefore, naturally, I always make sure my party is big. That specific year, we decided it's going to be a formal sit-down dinner. The whole family cooked, and we had a great time planning and preparing. I decided to make this soup for a starter. I was a tiny bit apprehensive, as the guest list included a few conservative palates, but it turned out fabulous. Plates were licked, seconds were served, the recipe was demanded. A huge success indeed. I couldn't wait to recreate this for Meeta. Except I can't find the recipe, and I can't exactly remember how I made it. So I did what I had to do: I improvised.
After some brainstorming and shopping, my mum and I had a great afternoon in the kitchen adding and tasting, and I think our version is even better than the original. This is definitely not a dessert soup. The sweetness of the watermelon and the strawberry soup is perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the feta and olives. Keep in mind that all watermelons are not created equal, and you may need to add some sugar to get your preferred level of sweetness. Or not. Have your own lovely afternoon of adding and tasting.
For the bubbly I used a wonderful South African sparkling wine called Pongracz.Desiderius. The people over at Pongracz claims this Brut Cap Classique has "rich complexity with a classic yeast character from the slow maturation on the lease and a wonderful creamy, nutty quality with a long, lingering palate". I couldn't have put it more eloquently. Next time, I'm keen to try this recipe with a wonderful Australian sparkling shiraz. The possibilities are endless.
So, without further ado, please raise your glass and soup spoon to the lovely Meeta and her fabulous blog. May there be many more years to come.
Watermelon, strawberry and champagne soup with olives, feta and basil
1.5 kg watermelon, chopped (add some caster sugar if the watermelon isn't very sweet)
500ml strawberry juice
750ml champagne, minus one glass for the chef
30ml dry vermouth, or to taste
500ml vegetable stock
a small handful of basil, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup chopped feta
1/3 cup chopped black olives
Reserve one cup of chopped watermelon, and puree and strain the rest to remove any seeds. Mix the puree with the strawberry juice, champagne, vermouth and vegetable stock. Add the basil, and chill for at least 2 hours.
Remove basil from the chilled soup, and taste for seasoning.
Serve the soup chilled, and topped with the remaining chopped watermelon, chopped feta and olives, and some extra basil leaves. Grind some black pepper over the top and drizzle with some fruity olive oil if desired.