Start by sautéing a coarsely chopped onion along with some minced sage. While the onion softens, chop some red bell peppers (two for the half recipe I made). A small part is chopped in 1.5cm dice and set aside to be added at the end. (I thought this was too large and chopped this bit quite fine; somewhere in between would be best, I think.) The rest of the bell peppers get chopped coarsely and added to the onions, along with some salt, bay leaves, ground cumin, sugar, and red pepper flakes. (A pinch of red pepper flakes was good for my half recipe; two pinches would be nice for a whole recipe.) After this softens a bit, chicken or vegetable stock is added, the mixture brought to a simmer, then covered and cooked on low for about 15 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
Remove the bay leaf and purée the veggies with a staff mixer in the pot or transfer to a regular blender. Let the mixture cool a bit, stir in some diced celery, the reserved bell pepper, lemon zest, and minced garlic. Let the mixture cool to room temp, then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
Take the soup from the fridge half an hour before you're ready to serve. Stir, adjust the seasoning, divide among serving bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil, and top with a collop of sour cream. Ottolenghi suggest finishing with a drizzle of olive oil, but I skipped this.
The stick of celery I bought to make this dish disappeared into another meal earlier in the week, so I used some dried celery leaves instead of the celery. With bigger chunks of bell pepper and celery bits of the same size, this would be quite a crunchy soup. That might be nice, but I can also see that having a completely smooth soup might also be nice.
Crunchy or not, the result was quite tasty. It would be a good company dish since it could easily be made the day before and finishing takes a very short time. I can easily imagine sipping this soup while food on the grill gets ready to eat.
In general, I've not been very pleased with Ottolenghi's recipe writing style. Simple steps are often over-explained while more difficult things are skipped over. Sometimes prep steps are not given in the most efficient order. (In addition, I find font used in this book particularly difficult to read. I'm trying to avoid developing an antipathy to the book because I have made some good things from it.) This particular recipe, though, is quite well explained. The steps are in the proper order so that you can work from it sequentially without having to plan ahead yourself for the following steps.
Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what yummy, red things other IHCCers have cooked up this week.