Py cooks…tomato soup

Soup for my sweet, sandwich for my honey,
Your first taste thrilled me so…

Soup-er fix

Soup-er fix

First, a bit of business. You may have noticed from the emphasis on love and passion in my post on porridge that I am feeling the love this February. This being so, I am going to devote my posts this month to those foods and meals that play a role in my love of life, and also, indeed, my love life.

Now ya’ll know by now that I love soup. It just seems to be something that my body craves during these cold, wet, and occasionally snowy, months. This is never more true than when I am also suffering from cold, another common feature of February. As this is currently the case (woe is me), I thought I would share my fool proof recovery meal: homemade tomato soup with a fish-less finger sandwich. It’s a miracle worker.

Now I have nothing against a good ol’ tin of soup. I have one almost every day. However, there really is something to be said for doing it yourself. Actually seeing the kilogram of tomatoes going into the mix makes you fully aware of the goodness you are going to take in; that knowledge alone makes you feel better.

Before...

Before…

...after.

…after.

You will also need...

You will also need…

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

INGREDIENTS

1kg tomatoes
 (the better tomatoes, the better the soup)
Pinch of sugar

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks

600ml veggie stock

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (+ extra to drizzle and serve)

2 – 3 tbsp creme fraiche

RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5

Cut the tomatoes in half (if you do it horizontally it means they will sit better on the tray). Arrange them, cut-side up, in a baking dish or tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Bake these for about an hour, until the tomatoes are soft and starting to char around the edges.

Heat a bit more oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened.

Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and add them, plus any juices from the dish (which is the really important bit in getting the deep tomato flavour), to the pan.

Add the stock. Stir and bring to the boil, turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are soft, which should take about 20-25 minutes.

Once the soup has cooled slightly, use a stick blender (or whatever you have) to purée the soup to whatever consistency you like.

Stir the vinegar and creme fraiche through the soup, and season to taste.

Reheat gently, while you tear the basil leaves into pieces, then serve with these and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

Enjoy!

As for accompaniments, some buttered bread may do. However, to have full effect on me I need some fish-less fingers, housed between two buttery slices of homemade white bread, with lashings of tomato ketchup. So wrong and yet so right.

So wrong and yet so right!

So wrong and yet so right!

Don’t I spoil you? Just a little while ago I gave you the cure for a hangover, and now you have the cure for a cold. No need to thank me though. These little things just help keep the love, even when things are a little less than rosy.

What cold cure do you swear by? And what soups do you really love?

Py xx

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A Trip to the Middle East, Part II

Alongside my Swooning Imam I like to serve this olive bread, Eliopitta, hailing from around Greece, Turkey, and Armenia, another recipe taken from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher, as I believe it has the perfect density for mopping up all the heady sauce from the aubergine dish.

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The joy of the bread is neatly summed up by the author herself: ‘a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, was Khayyam’s recipe for bucolic bliss – reckon this was the loaf he was talking about.’ And it’s true, there is something just right about this bread; its weight, its saltiness (a gift from the olives), and its luxury (provided by the rosemary). This is a loaf to break with loved ones. I would probably add more wine, and turn Khayyam’s ‘bucolic bliss’ into my own bacchic bliss. But that is just me.

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INGREDIENTS (makes 2, smallish, loaves)

500g strong white flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsps salt
7g dried yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml tepid water
100g pitted, sliced olives
1 tbsp chopped rosemary

RECIPE

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl

Sprinkle the yeast over the flour, then add the oil and water

Mix with a wooden spoon, at first, then with your hands – once it comes together, knead for 10 minutes

Return to the bowl and cover (with clingfilm or a damp tea towel), leaving it to double in size (around 30 minutes)

Punch the dough down, knead again, and add the olives and rosemary

Again, return to the bowl, cover and leave to double in size

Split the dough in half and shape into rounds, placing the two future loaves on a floured board

Cover them, and leave to rise for a final 30 minutes

Meanwhile, heat the oven to gas 9 / 240 C, and grease a large baking tray and place in the oven to heat up

Just before you are ready to put the bread in the oven, place a baking tin of water in the bottom of the oven, so as to keep the bread soft (NB skip this step if you are using an electric oven)

Slide the loaves from board to preheated tray, at bake for 10 minutes, before turning the heat down to gas 5 / 190 C, and cooking for a further 20-25 minutes

The bread should be golden, hollow-sounding, and tempting

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MY EXPERIENCE

A bit of a boring one, I’m afraid. Monday night Middle Eastern was spent with my boy, just relaxing. The night ended as all our romantic dates do…

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…with a banana, doused in nutella, sprinkled with nuts and seeds. The perfect end to any night.