As the end of October creeps around I start to get stupidly excited. Part of it is just the kid in me – the many reasons to get dressed up, eat all sorts of goodies, have fun and be silly. The other part of the thrill for me is the Occasional cooking. I may be passionate about seasonal cooking and get giddy at the first appearance of asparagus or quinces or raspberries, but cooking for celebrations… now that is the really exciting stuff! Yes, I know this is South Africa in summer and not autumn in New Hampshire! Yes, I know pumpkins aren’t in season this time of year, but that does not mean they are not entirely bewitching when carved and lit and that does not mean, dammit, that you can’t whip up a little pumpkin pie! But it is Summer and I am so excited that tomatoes are here again and so I’m going to make a gorgeous red soup with tomatoes and red peppers – you can call it Blood & Guts soup if you’re so inclined, but if getting into the Halloween spirit does not blow your hair back, then Spicy Tomato Soup will do. This is the first meal Bevan ever made me, so it has a special place in my heart. I make it now too… though not with fat free yoghurt 😉
6 ripe tomatoes ±1litre veg stock
2 red peppers greek yoghurt/crème fraiche/cream
knuckle of garlic
3 leeks rinsed and trimmed
onion finely chopped
knob of ginger
a few bay leaves
salt & pepper
Turn the oven to 180°. Take a large roasting dish and put all the tomatoes in, turn them on their tops and make cross incisions into all of them. Take your bay leaves and wedge them into these incisions – if I use fresh from the tree I use about 3, but if using those dried ones, pop one into each tomato. Drizzle with olive oil. Rub the peppers and leeks with olive oil and lay next to the tomatoes. Slice the very top off your knuckle of garlic and remove the outer husks, keeping the knuckle whole if possible, drizzle with oil and season and tuck into the roasting tray, which should look like a strange attempt at a Tretchikov food still-life by now. Pop your artwork into the oven for about an hour – the tomatoes need to dehydrate a bit and the garlic must go soft. The peppers must also be wrinkly and squishy and the leeks nice and nutty. While the veggies are roasting, gently fry off your onion in a little olive oil until translucent and tender, grate in the ginger, give a stir then put the lid on and turn off the heat. If you like, add some chopped red chilli at this stage for some extra heat – you decide how much heat you want. When the veggies are ready, remove the tray from the oven and cool enough to be workable – be careful of the steam in the peppers! Roughly chop the leeks and put in the pot, put all the tomatoes in, squish out the lovely gooey garlic from each clove and add to the pot, turn the heat up to medium and add your stock. I have said before that I love using a product called Mock Chicken stock which is vegan and ABSOLUTELY delicious, but use whatever you prefer, add it hot and let the mixture heat up while you tackle the peppers. Pull the stalk out with all the pips if you can – all in one, otherwise just scrape out the pips and add the sweet peppers to the pot. Pour a little boiling water into the roasting tray to soften any burnt on bits, scape it all into the pot for extra flavour. Allow to gently simmer for about 30mins so the flavours can develop and the soup can reduce a little, then remove the bay leaves and remove from the heat. Blend until smooth with the zjouk-zjouks then taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with a dollop of luscious crème fraiche – stirred only slightly to complete the picture of Halloween blood and guts. I love it clean, unadulterated with any dairy and gorgeously exotically red. Now that you’ve made a virtuous meal, you can feel less guilty for having a little candy on the most kid-like celebration of all! Enjoy – life’s too short not to live with abandon.
Next week I’ll give you the recipe for a paleo Pumpkin pie I found that I cannot wait to eat for dessert after this soup!