Summer cucumber soup with crème fraîche dusted with shichimi pepper


First published in 2016
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I came across kombu – an edible kelp seaweed – a while ago, while reading a beautiful Japanese cookbook given to me by a foodie friend. Through this book, I learned of the wonders of dashi and how straightforward it is to make. In just 30 minutes you can have this clear and light-bodied stock ready to use in all manner of dishes.

The seaweed used to make the dashi can be reused as the perfect condiment to eat with cooked rice or as a snack. Dehydrated kombu can be used to wrap seafood or meat for stewing. Nothing is wasted!

Kombu is a thick, flat seaweed cultivated in the northern waters of Japan. It's not the best looking of ingredients; it reminds me of stiff black leather covered with a light grey mouldy layer. What it lacks in looks it delivers in taste. It's a natural source of umami, the Japanese word that roughly translates to 'deliciousness'.

In this recipe, the very refreshing cucumber makes the ideal pairing to the seaweed and is given a kick from a sprinkling of shichimi pepper.

This dish is perfect for a light lunch or as a starter.




Cucumber soup


  • kombu, 1 postcard-sized piece
  • 800ml of water, filtered is possible

To garnish

  • 4 dollops of crème fraîche
  • shichimi pepper, for dusting
  • chives, to decorate
To begin, make the mizudashi. Gently clean the dashi kombu with a slightly damp cloth. Leave the white powdery film as it contributes to the umami flavor in the dashi. Never wash the kombu under running water
Make a couple of incisions in the kombu. Put water and kombu in a large bowl and let it steep overnight in the refrigerator, at around 5°C. Remove the kombu and the dashi is ready to use
Alternatively, you could use the cooking method for the dashi, which is quicker if you don't have time for overnight soaking. Gently clean the dashi kombu with a slightly damp cloth, again leaving on the powdery film
Place in a pan with the water over a low heat. Just before the water comes to a boil, remove the kombu and switch off the heat. It's ready to use. Dashi will keep in the fridge for 3–7 days or in the freezer for 3 weeks
Dice the cucumber and peel the celeriac before cutting into cubes. Slice the spring onions (including the green part) and add pat-dry the watercress
In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil or butter and add all of the vegetables, stirring around to coat evenly in the fat. Keeping the heat low, cover and allow to sweat gently for 10 minutes
Now pour in the dashi, season with salt and pepper and bring it back to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and simmer gently for another 20 minutes, season with lemon juice then leave to cool for 15–20 minutes
Blitz the soup in a blender to form a smooth purée. Divide between bowls, add a dollop of crème fraîche and sprinkle over the chives and shichimi pepper
First published in 2016
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