Monday, August 24, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

I am one of the few people I know who enjoys cold soup as much as hot soups. As a result, I am always on the lookout for soups that can be served both warm and cold, such as vichyssoise, gazpacho and so on. The benefit of these soups, apart from their versatility, is that they improve with age, in a way soups like consommes do not, so you can feel good about leaving leftovers.

This recipe is one of Gordon Ramsay's, and unlike a normal tomato soup, this one makes use of red peppers to sweeten the soup, and in order to really enhance the flavours, the peppers (in fact all the fruits and vegetables) are roasted first.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

Olive oil
6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes
3 large red peppers
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp caster sugar
500ml tomato juice
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
200-300g (8 to 12) baby cherry tomatoes on the vine (optional)

It's worth paying more for beautiful, plump, juicy tomatoes...they don't necessarily have to be on the stem, but I regard that as a sign of freshness. While the locally-grown beef tomatoes may be much cheaper, they tend to be quite sour and even harsh, so I would not recommend using them. Tomato juice is easily found in cans or tetra-paks in supermarkets.

1. Quarter and de-seed the tomatoes

This is important, as it ensures that your soup will be perfectly smooth and lush. I have had many tomato soups which were gritty, and while you can always sieve your soup, it is extraordinarily difficult to remove tomato seeds once they have been blended.

To de-seed tomatoes, simply quarter them, and using a spoon or the tip of your knife, tease out the wet, mushy cores containing the seeds. Do not discard these, but place them into a sieve with a bowl underneath. The watery cores contain lots of tomato juice that you can squeeze out with the back of a spoon (or your hands), leaving the tomato seed and pulp in the sieve but ensuring that you do not waste too much of the sweet, refreshing juices.

2. Quarter and de-seed the peppers

This is not particularly difficult; you may de-seed the peppers any way you think convenient.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 220C.

4. Tip the tomatoes, peppers, sliced onion and garlic into a roasting tin, and lubricate liberally with olive oil (about 4 Tbsp worth). Sprinkle with a handful of fresh thyme leaves, and toss to coat all the ingredients in the oil. Sprinkle with sugar and season with salt.

5. Roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the tomatoes and peppers are caramelised (but not browned), adding a handful of fresh basil sprigs towards the end of cooking (so they do not char).

6. Tip the roasted vegetables into a saucepan, and add the reserved juice from the tomato pulp you strained earlier, the 500ml of tomato juice and the vegetable/chicken stock. Bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes.

7. (Optional) If possible, leave to marinate overnight, as this will really intensify the flavours. If you don't have the time for that, at least wait for the ingredients to cool down before blending them.

8. Blend the ingredients in a blender (in batches).

9. (Optional) To obtain a really smooth soup, sieve the mixture at least once (twice is better).

10. This is what you should end up with: a bright, carroty-orange soup, that should be adjusted to the consistency you desire by adding more stock or tomato juice. Once you're happy with the consistency, you can serve it either warm or chilled.

11. (Optional) To jazz up the appearance of your soup, and to create an interesting flavour/texture contrast, when you're ready to serve, heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and simply place baby cherry tomatoes on the vine (2 or 3 to each person) into the hot oil. Let them sizzle away for a minute or so, then remove them and place them gently into the soup bowls.

The great thing about this soup is that even if you serve it warm at the height of summer (in Singapore that would be about 1pm any day of the week, I guess), it still seems refreshing and zesty, bursting with great flavours: sweetness from the tomatoes, some piquancy from the peppers, and a general sense of satisfaction as you finish the whole bowl.

No comments: