I often get funny looks when I suggest this at my weight management groups and my cancer nutrition classes. No one quite rolls their eyes, but I do feel a collective will not to laugh; a suppression of an exasperated “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
I eat tomatoes like candy. At least at this time of year when tomatoes are at their delectable and nutritious peak. And I suggest that others give it a go, too.
At home I put out a plate or bowl mounded with freshly washed small tomatoes and we pick away to our heart’s content: ridiculously perfect supermarket ones; bulbous, misshapen heritage ones; slightly split homegrown ones. What gets the eyes almost rolling is the suggestion that people bring this idea to work. To compete with the homemade cakes and the vending machines. I know. Hilarious.
What’s not to love? Who in their right mind can shun the pleasure of that initial resistance of the tight thin skin, teeth sinking in to bursting and succulent sweet savouriness? The seeds sometimes not quite staying in the mouth? At this time of year I can easily eat a few fruit-packed stems of cherry tomatoes in one go. I’m not picky but they do need to be warm, fresh, fragrant and seasonal. Not picky at all then.
Mostly I like them as they are. But a very close second is roasted. Not charred and chewy roasted. But gently heated over a slightly long time so as to intensify the flavour without burning the sugars (bad for the teeth – these would be like candy!).
If you are going to the ‘trouble’ of roasting tomatoes, may I suggest a big batch? Not only to keep in the fridge for eating in salads, dips, smashed on toast with ricotta, with breakfast bits, between bread, and as a perfect side dish, (phew) but also to make the most gloriously intense and ridiculously easy – if not quite instant – soup.
In my recipe I have tarted up this intense tomato soup with hearty, chewy maftoul (giant wholewheat couscous), but just leave it out if you fancy complete smoothness. And change out the herbs too if you like. I have a couple of different thymes growing right by the house, so that’s what I tend to use, but I also have oregano, rosemary, marjoram, basil, tarragon, sages and sorrel in the garden- all of which would be excellent.
Incidentally, I got my soup perfectly and creamily smooth with my new Froothie Optimum 9400 blender. Although I have a Vitamix, I must say that this new-to-the-UK, Australian high-speed blender is even easier to use, and with faster results. The diamond-sharp blade pulses, which I think makes a huge difference to how well and quickly it blends. It also reduces the amount of times one needs to stop and scrape down the sides (they include a long-handled silicone scraper). In fact I have made a few things since receiving my blender from the good people at Froothie and not had to stop and scrape once. I am sure I will with nut butter though. ;-)
I will give a proper review soon – once I put it through its paces. In the meantime I will entice you a little with the fact that although the Optimum 9400 is about half the price of a Vitamix (the top high-speed blender in the UK) the Optimum 9400 is more powerful: 1492 watts for the Vitamix Pro 500 versus 2238 for the Optimum 9400. See the comparison chart here. Both gadgets are great and a boon to the home cook, but so far the Froothie has the edge.
Look out also for recipes using my new Optimum 400 Slow Juicer. Although I will mainly be posting these in my cancer nutrition pages I will also pop some of the recipes here too. Coming soon. :-)
Disclaimer: I was sent a Froothie Optimum 9400 to use and review but like other Froothie users I love mine and am starting to use it for loads of quick and simple recipes. I am not obliged to give a positive review but one will be coming anyway! It’s quite simply a great machine.
Simple, Intense Tomato Soup with Maftoul
Sun-ripened, summer tomatoes are, of course, best. But insipid, hothouse tomatoes will perk up no end with a spell in the oven. Chuck a couple of halved and deseeded peppers or a sliced fennel bulb onto the baking tray too, if you like. Add a little more stock if you add more veg.
I’ve included maftoul – wholegrain, giant couscous – for added heft and a little chew. However, it goes without saying that straight from the blender is heavenly.
Note: I used ‘ordinary’ tomatoes but heirloom (i.e. not hybridised) are well-known for being especially tasty – and good for agriculture. Find them at farmer’s markets.
1.5kg (3 lbs) ripe tomatoes, halved, quartered or in sixths, depending on size
6 garlic cloves, skin on
1 ½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves or a several sprigs of fresh thyme (lemon thyme is especially lovely)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional, but really complements the roasted tomatoes)
1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted in a pan
700ml hot light vegetable stock, or hot water
45g (1/3 cup) maftoul, couscous or freekeh
Optional: diced avocado (as croutons) and extra herbs and evoo
Special equipment: high-speed blender such as Froothie’s Optimum 9400 (not absolutely necessary but will make the most velvety-smooth soup)
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.
2. Pop the tomatoes, garlic, thyme leaves, oil, maple syrup and fennel seeds into a large bowl and mix gently; slide onto two baking trays. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
3. Slit the garlic skins and pop out the sticky, gorgeous garlic; discard the skins. Use a silicone spatula/wooden spoon to slide everything into the blender jug, making sure to scrape in all the gooey juices.
4. Add about one-third of the hot stock and secure the blender lid. Blitz until the soup is completely smooth. Add in the remaining stock and blend. If you aren’t adding any uncooked grains, the soup is ready to eat!
5. Pour the blended tomato soup into a medium saucepan and heat until just boiling; add the maftoul/couscous/freekeh. Return to the boil then turn down the heat. Simmer until the grains are just done (time depends on which grain you use). Serve.
Note 1 : if you don’t have a high-speed blender or food processor, I would grind the fennel seeds, adding the thyme leaves only when blending the roasted ingredients. Hand blenders work pretty well; better than food processors for something like this.
Note 2: This makes a fantastic pasta sauce and baked fish/chicken sauce, too. Just leave out the stock and the grains.
A few other vegetarian and vegan soups on food to glow (more in Index): ‘Creamy’ Broccoli and Basil Soup with Wonton Twists; Freekeh and Greens Soup; Love Your Greens Soup; Lemony Broccoli, Leek and Tarragon Soup; Butternut Squash and Tofu Curry Laksa.
Other vegetarian soups to try:
Cook Sister: Runner Bean Soup
Franglais Kitchen: Butternut Squash Soup with Garlic Crostini and Parmesan
Greedy Gourmet: Courgette and Avocado Pear Soup
Tinned Tomatoes: Madras Curried Tomato Soup
Fab Food 4 All: Tomato, Carrot and Dill Soup
A Mummy Too: Roast Tomato and Garlic Soup
The Botanical Baker: Courgette Soup with Feta, Parsley and Cumin Gremolata