Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tomato soup

Some days you just need a lovely and comforting bowl of hot soup. I am still not rid of my stubborn cold. Yesterday also turned out to be a day when life once again sent a reminder of how sudden things change without any warning. Life takes you on weird, winding paths, and sometimes it's very hard to see any reason for why things turn out like they do.
Talking about comforting soups, if you have been reading my blog for a while, you could not miss the fact that we had quite a tomato crop this summer. I just couldn't believe how much tomatoes our plants produced. However, as we only moved in in July, the wonderful previous owners grew the tomato plants and all we had to do was harvest the wonderful orbs of red yummyness. During high tomato season they matured so quickly that all I could do was to freeze them whole as I just didn't have time to make tomato sauce every evening after getting home from work, particularly as we were working on the Bachelor pad most evenings during last year's harvest season. And now I have the wonderful task of using up all that produce from our own garden. The great thing about the frozen tomatoes is that when they defrost, the skin is really easy to pop off without having to go through the time consuming process of blanching. 

My sister discovered this tomato soup recipe on the BBC good food website and encouraged me to try it. It's basic and doesn't have any fancy ingredients but it will have a great flavour, particularly if you will have access to really ripe, sweet tomatoes. It makes a great, affordable lunch full of flavour and it's healthy too. Add some (home baked) bread and it makes a perfect lunch.

Tomato soup (serves 4):
1-1 1/4 kg tomatoes
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp tomato puree
black pepper
a good pinch of sugar
2 bay leaves
1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock (or less if tomatoes produce a lot of liquid)

The howto:
Prepare the tomatoes by chopping them in quarters and removing the cores. Then chop the onion, carrot and celery. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, and sauté the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cook until the vegetables start to soften a bit, about 10 minutes on medium heat. Add the tomato puree and give the vegetables a stir before adding the tomatoes, sugar, black pepper and bay leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes soften. Add vegetable stock, if there is a lot of liquid from the tomatoes (my frozen tomatoes produce more liquid than fresh tomatoes, so I don't add very much stock at all, just a stock cube and a splash of water). Cook for about 25 minutes. Puree with a handheld blender or liquidizer, and season with either salt, sugar or pepper according to taste. Serve while hot or freeze in individual servings. 

The verdict:
I love the simple favours of this soup. When you cook with tomatoes, you should always add a bit of sugar to balance the flavours. As I'm using my own tomatoes, this soup actually cost next to nothing. It is the perfect way to use the frozen whole tomatoes, as they get a bit sloppy when they defrost. I prefer to handle them when half thawed, it's easy to peel off the skin and cut out the hard stem while they are still frosty, once completely thawed they are a bit challenging to work with. You can blanch the tomatoes or just leave the skins on, as the blending will get rid of any unpleasant bits of tomato skin. 

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