I’m still in soup-making mode, filling the freezer with lovely soups for easy winter lunches. This one has a gorgeous autumnal feel with its bright red colour, echoing the blaze of reds and oranges on the trees and bushes, and a special earthiness that the roasting of the vegetables brings to its flavour. You can almost smell autumn: burning fires, leaves mulching underfoot, rich soil being turned over in preparation for the winter. Can you imagine a more perfect soup for lunch on a beautiful, sunny November day like today?
Roast Tomato & Red Pepper Soup
Place 600g of tomatoes in a large roasting pan with 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped. Add 2 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped, 3 cloves of garlic, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, a few basil leaves and some salt and pepper. Pour over 3 tablespoons of olive oil and gently turn to make sure all the vegetables are coated. Put in a 180 Fan/200C oven for about 40 minutes. Halfway through, take out and gently stir to stop edges of the vegetables burning.
Meanwhile, peel and cut into pieces a large potato and boil in salted water till tender; drain. About 5 minutes from the end of cooking, add the potato to the tomato mixture so it will take up some of the flavours. (Don’t shortcut and add uncooked potato earlier as then the outside will harden like roast potatoes – and that’s not what is wanted here.) The addition of a starchy potato gives a better, creamier texture to the soup. Once the vegetables are ready, take from the oven and transfer to a large saucepan, picking out any vines (if you’ve used vine tomatoes, as I did), and stalks from the tomatoes and thyme.
Now add 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock and slowly bring to the boil. Then blitz the whole thing with a hand blender till smooth. Now slowly ladle the soup through a large seive into another container, using the back of the ladle to push as much of the soup through as you can. I don’t often bother to do this with soups as I generally prefer a more rustic effect, but it’s important with this one when you haven’t skinned the tomatoes and peppers and there will be woody bits of thyme in it.
If you want to eat the soup straight away you’ll need to warm it through again, but don’t boil. Check the seasoning. Serve with some croutons and some freshly chopped basil. (For quick croutons, toast some nice country bread, drizzle over a good amount of olive oil and chop into small pieces.) If you want to be posh because you’re serving it to others – or to treat yourself – the addition of a little cream at the end would be nice; some Parmesan cheese grated over the croutons is also good.