Simple Tomato Soup:
This always goes down well, and can have lots of stuff added. This can make use of either cheap tins or the squashy, fragrance-rich offerings that are about to collapse and tend to get sold very cheaply in boxes at the grocers or market (or that you fish out of the bin outside the supermarket!). They are the best ones to use but do what you can. You can batch make this and freeze it and keep it very thick and use as a sauce or of course, thin down into this delicious soup.
- Onions, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary or thyme or even a bit of mint; the herbs (fresh if you can, but dried will do) add a dimension of taste that is hugely important.
- Fry the onions garlic and herbs until soft but not coloured in olive oil with celery if you have it or if you have been reading this blog, use the frozen parsley stalks that you have saved instead of celery...
- Then add the tomatoes and some tomato puree if it seems needed. Always add a cube or two of brown sugar. Or even a spoonful of honey or jam if needs be, but tomatoes, especially the cheap ones, need sugar to bring out the fruitiness. Honestly, you'll miss it if you don't add it in. Not tons but a bit.
- Bubble away until well amalgamated and then for magic ingredient number two, a slosh of white or red wine vinegar. Even balsamic (though it might seem a little extravagant for soup but it would certainly work). This is the technical term known as the 'twang' which features heavily in my cooking. There is something yummy about the sweet-sharp combination where they add to rather than overpower the dish. So, just a slosh is needed along with some stock, to bring about a lovely melding of sweet and juicy flavours that seems to be universally greeted with enthusiasm.
- If you want to blend this then take out any stalky bits of the herbs and whizz through until silky.
I tend to eat with a swizz of decent olive oil on the top and bread toasted and rubbed with a raw garlic clove. If paired with some salty cheese or some ricotta this can make for a really nice little meal.
To make this another way you could omit the herbs and instead add chilli, crumble some cumin seeds in and maybe some smoked paprika and serve with yoghurt. Or add in a dash of turmeric and some orange juice instead of stock for a warmer and fruitier flavour. Fresh basil or bought pesto goes well with this soup and if you get some mozzarella and sandwich it between two slices of bread, squidge it down and fry in olive oil this makes an amazing cheese toastie to dip into the soup.
Another way is to omit the herbs and add in a star anise and a dash of cinnamon to make a really grown-up, smoky, complicated flavour that is super nice when you need warming up. And one more might be the apple and tomato combination where you can use apple juice instead of stock or even just make the soup and serve it with a dollop of apple sauce and yoghurt on the top. By the way, if you have some apple juice, try adding a teeny spoonful of cider vinegar to it; it tastes much better and more 'apple-y' that way and with that in mind if you go for the tomato and apple soup you can use cider vinegar for the twang.
Chickpeas, cooked rice and pasta can all be added to these soups to make them into something more filling if needs be, though I'd rather have it with some kind of toasted cheese offering.