The other day I watched James Martin make this soup in five minutes, so – stopwatch at the ready – I’m attempting the same. I’m doing no pre-prep other than to line the ingredients up on the kitchen counter, possibly in nice little dishes and ramekins just like they do on the telly, and setting up equipment like plugging in the food processor [I’ll just have to manage without the lights and cameras]. In fact I’m sure James had his pan warming before he set off so I’m giving myself the same advantage. Other than that it’ll be a tomato soup time trial from a standing start.
I have made a couple of tiny tweaks to James’ recipe. My tomato to stock ratio is a little more tomato heavy, and there’s the addition of my secret ingredient for any tomato soup – gin! I’m not sure my mother would approve of this as a tin of Heinz tomato soup was always her restorative food of choice for an ailing infant, but tomato and gin soup has long been a favourite, and was my first course at the ‘everything must contain booze’ dinner I cooked for friends in Singapore some thirteen years ago. The same dinner, incidentally, where I flambéed eight fillet steaks all at once for the first time, producing a tremendous fireball which briefly engulfed my head, taking with it my fringe, eyebrows and lashes. I was told by the waiting guests who could see into the kitchen through a large hatch from the dining room that the pyrotechnics rivalled the harbour fireworks display at the Singapore National Day celebrations, but it’s not a trick I’ve been keen to repeat since, and I most certainly would not recommend that you try it at home!
Anyhow I digress. For four dainty or two hefty portions of the soup you will need:
- 1.2kg tomatoes
- 4 fat garlic cloves
- 1 small handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- A good glug of olive oil
- 500ml hot vegetable or chicken stock [vegetarians and vegans will clearly want the former]
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tsp caster sugar [or to taste]
- 60ml double cream, plus extra to serve [this can be omitted for a vegan version]
- 50ml gin, plus a dash to serve [optional]
So then, we’re under starters orders – and we’re off!
Pan’s on the heat, in with the oil and start to quarter the tomatoes. Tomatoes into the hot oil and as they fizz and spit chop the garlic. Garlic in, and tear the basil. Add tomato puree, stir, and gin. Salt, pepper, sugar. Basil in. Back to the simmer then pour in the hot stock, and back to simmering point again. Now into the blender or food processor. Whizz, adding the cream as you go. Ready a sieve over a waiting pan [I used the one where the stock had been warming], and pass through the blended soup. Return to a simmer for the final time, taste and adjust seasoning and sugar, and add a splash more gin.
Stop the clock!
My time? A not very respectable 15:00.2. This is not boding well for the three egg omelette challenge, but I’ll post any new personal bests here as and when. Do add comments with your own times. But even at 15 minutes, it’s hardly a huge investment of time for a fresh and tasty soup to beat any can.