Foodwise, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with tomatoes. Tomatoes all ways: raw sprinkled with sea salt; tomato sauce for pasta or to tuck little meatballs into; slow roasted for antipasti; stuffed Greek style. Is there no end to the wonders of tomatoes. Perhaps my least favourite is tomato juice, even with the addition of vodka to make a Bloody Mary; but then I don’t drink vodka, rarely spirits at all other than the occasional whisky. My son shares my love; when he was about 10 I remember him telling me he didn’t think he could live without tomatoes. Such a statement from a young boy only goes to show the importance of food in our family!
I’ve been making Roasted Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup a lot recently. It’s so easy and one of our favourites. At two months shy of being 2 years old, grandson Freddie loves it too and we use it as a pasta sauce for his supper, which works well because I always leave it quite a thick consistency. He’s happy with the addition of chilli too – just as his father is! I thought I’d ring the changes a little today by doing a simple tomato soup. I wanted to roast the tomatoes to bring out their full flavour and because I wasn’t planning to use stock (I had some chicken stock in the freezer but as I wanted to freeze some soup, I couldn’t use that), I decided to start it with a soffritto of onion, carrot and celery to add depth of flavour. If you have stock (mild chicken or vegetable) or are happy using a stock cube (which I’m not, as regular readers will know), feel free to add them instead of just water.
I also decided to add a medium potato to add a bit of body to the soup as I’m not fond of thin vegetable soups.
Roast Tomato & Thyme Soup
- 2 small or 1 medium red onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 stick celery
- about 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large potato (about 170g)
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 950g large vine tomatoes
- bunch of fresh thyme
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery and gently soften in the olive oil in a large ovenproof pan. As soon as it begins to soften (don’t cook too long and brown), add the potato, skinned and chopped into small dice. Add the garlic cloves, crushed. Stir so everything is coated in the oil and cook for a couple more minutes. Now add the tomatoes, halved. Season well with salt and pepper. Top with a bunch of thyme (the kind I bought had very soft stems but my garden thyme is more woody and strongly flavoured so I’d probably add less. If you don’t have fresh thyme, then use dried). Now add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and bring out their sweetness. Mix it all well then put into a preheated 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4 oven for about an hour.
I wanted to cook it more slowly than usual roasted vegetables that I cook at quite a high heat, so I used a gentler heat. I wanted the tomatoes to soften but not brown and caramelise so that they retained a freshness of flavour. Remove them when all the vegetables have nicely softened and just starting to colour. If your thyme was very woody, then remove the stalks. Mine was so soft, I just left it all in.
Transfer the vegetables to a large pan. Pour a little boiling water or hot stock into the roasting pan, over heat, and scrape up any bits that have clung to the side. Tip into the pan of vegetables and then top up with enough water or stock to just cover them. If you use too much liquid at this stage you can’t thicken the soup, but once you’ve blitzed it with a blender, then you can always add more liquid if you want to.
Once you’ve blended it until smooth, check the seasoning. If you were doing this for a posh dinner party, you could always put it through a sieve but I’m more into rustic cooking!
It was a delicious soup. It had a good depth of flavour without being strong tasting, and had retained some of the tomato freshness, as I’d wanted. I dressed it with a little yoghurt – because that’s what I had, but crème fraîche or even cream would be nice – and some chopped basil and thyme. It would make a nice soup for Christmas with its seasonal red colour but really it’s a soup for any time of year. Just be sure to buy really tasty tomatoes – I used organic vine tomatoes – so you get a good flavour.