Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tomato Soup (with Paul Hollywood's Focaccia bread)

Wednesday’s soup of the day is another of my favourites – Tomato.


Here at Fancy Pans we like to grow our own produce wherever we can. 

Imagine this:  it’s a warm summer’s afternoon and you step into the greenhouse.  The greeting is a heavy scent of warm, damp earth which is laced with the fresh smell of ripening tomatoes, teasing its way through to draw you in.  When you take a glossy, ripe fruit and gently twist so that it leaves the vine, you can feel its warmth between your fingers.  Close your eyes and pop it into your mouth (if it’s a cherry tomato that is, don’t try this with anything larger).  The warm sweetness is a flavour unique to that moment and a tomato which left the plant some time earlier will not have that delicious, instant burst of mouth-watering satisfaction  – divine.

For the soup, you can indeed use fresh tomatoes, either home grown or shop bought, but you can also use the tinned variety if it’s winter and  fresh tomatoes are watery and flavourless.  Morrisons have a range of tinned, chopped tomatoes enhanced with various flavours: herbs, garlic, Basil, chilli, which are great store-cupboard  staples to have.

If you are going to use fresh tomatoes, you need to peel and de-seed about 2 pounds.  Put them into a large basin and pour on boiling water.  Leave them for about 30 seconds or so, then drain the water and pour on really cold water.   Drain the tomatoes and you will now be able to remove the skins easily.  Remove the seeds and chop the flesh.  Keep it to one side.  If you choose not to peel and de-seed the toms, you will need to put the finished soup through a sieve to remove all the nasty bits.   

Peel and chop a large onion (or two smaller ones).  Take a large carrot (or two smaller ones) peel and chop.  Lastly, chop up two rashers of lean, un-smoked back bacon – unless you are vegetarian in which case it’s probably best to leave this out. You will also need a sprinkling of herbs – I like thyme, but mixed herbs are fine too.  If you are using tinned tomatoes you could use the ones with herbs already in.   

Take a large pan and put about 1 – 2 ozs butter in to it (margarine is fine too or vegetable oil, but not olive oil.)  Heat the butter until melted.  You can add a little vegetable oil to prevent it burning.  Throw in the onion, carrot and bacon and leave to cook until the onion is soft.  Whilst it’s cooking, make up about a pint of stock.  Chef makes ours from scratch so we always have some in the fridge, but you can buy it ready made from the supermarket, or use a stock cube.  Chicken  or vegetable stock works best. 

When the onions, etc. are cooked, add the tomatoes (1½ lbs or about 750 grams, that’s a tin-and-a-half, - what the heck, put 2 tins in.)  Then sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar into the pan and add the stock.  Lastly add about ¼ teaspoon of white pepper then leave to simmer for a while – about 15 – 20 minutes should do it.  When the soup is cooked, take it from the heat and liquidise – either in a food-processor/liquidiser or with a hand-held blender. 

Mix a dessertspoon full of cornflour with a little cold milk. Measure half a pint of milk and warm it up then add to the soup.  Add the cornflour mix and heat until thickened.  Keep stirring so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan and to make sure there are no lumps.

The thickness of the soup is really up to you.  Add as little or as much milk as you want to.  You may prefer not to add any, in which case you probably won’t need the cornflour mix either.  The key thing is: taste, taste, taste.  Adjust seasoning to your preferance.  You can add ground black pepper if you like the flavour of it – the choice is yours.

I like Focaccia bread with this soup – once again Master Baker Paul Hollywood will show you how to make the perfect Focaccia (click here)– or you could just buy it from a patisserie or supermarket.   

Enjoy!

Ingredient recap:

1½lbs tomatoes, skinned and de-seeded (or same amount of tinned tomatoes)
1 large or 2 small onions
1 large or 2 small carrots
2 rahsers of lean, un-smoked bacon
1 oz butta (or margarine, or veg oil)
1 pint stock
Sugar - about a teaspoon
Pepper & salt – to taste
Herbs
Milk
Cornflour – dessertspoon full

For the Focaccia - click here 

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