There’s a change in the air. Summer – or what we had of it – is gone, and the crisp autumn chill is creeping in. It’s time to start planning your autumn and winter menus beginning with rich, satisfying and heart-warming casseroles and soups that can fill you up and give you the nutrients your body needs.
Nothing beats sitting at the dining table with the family on a Sunday afternoon playing a board game or jigsaw and enjoying a comforting bowl of tomato soup. So, here’s my recipe. It’s simple to make, suitable for vegetarians and delivers a healthy dose of lycopene – a powerful antioxidant which can help fight cancer and keep your heart healthy.
Ingredients – Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large white onions, sliced
1 large carrot, roughly chopped,
½ stick of celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic roughly sliced
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
½ tube tomato puree
¼ pint of good veg stock
Handful of basil leaves
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 thick slices of day old soda bread with crusts trimmed
1 tsp natural yogurt or crème fraiche (optional)
Himalayan salt and black pepper for seasoning
Firstly, make your croutons. Heat your oven to 200C. Tear your soda bread slices into small ragged pieces (about 2 cms long) and lay them on a baking tray. Sprinkle on some Himalayan salt and, taking one tbsp. of the olive oil, drizzle it over each piece. Squeeze the bread pieces so they soak up the oil and put the tray in the oven for about 10 mins or until the croutons are crispy and golden brown. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.
Next add the other tbsp. to a large saucepan and heat gently. Lightly sauté the onions, carrot, celery and garlic for about 10 mins until the veg is soft. The next step is a little trick I learned from Jamie Oliver. Pour the plum tomatoes into your hand (above the saucepan) and squeeze them into mush before adding to the pot. Plum tomatoes are always better quality than chopped tomatoes so simply crush them yourself. Once you’ve added the tomatoes, add the tomato puree, maple syrup (to remove the acidity from the tomatoes) and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for around 10 minutes during which time you can rip up the basil leaves and add them to the pot too. When the soup is ready allow it to cool slightly before pureeing it in a food processor or using a hand blender. Once it’s smooth, strain it through a sieve, using the back of a spoon, into the pot for a lovely creamy, texture. Heat it up again and season to your taste. Pour into soup bowls and drizzle on some yogurt or crème fresh. Top with the rustic croutons and tuck in!
Note – If preparing for vegans omit the yogurt and use vegan soda bread for croutons