It took me a while, but I finally managed to twist and tweak another classic dish to my liking! You might wonder how a menace to the world’s tomato population like me can sidestep the issue of a simple tomato soup for years… well, after quite a number of… not bad, but unsatisfying bowls and recipes, I had almost given up on the idea. Basically, one half would have worked better as a tomato sauce and the other half needed a stomach-turning amount of cream or butter to loose the air of a sauce and turn “creamy”.
Since I really love fresh tomatoes in all shapes and sizes, my general state of “underwhelmed” when it comes to tomatoes in a soupy context has been bugging me to no end for quite some time. Thankfully, this recipe at the Chef’s Station…
…posing a constant reminder of what started to feel like a failure of sorts, appeared to be mocking me after a while, prodding me in just the right places to send me off to the kitchen again, armed with a ginormic amount of tomatoes and the fierce determination to make it work! Hrrrrgh~!
To dodge a result I would, once again, probably like better as a sauce with something more substantial, I begrudgingly decided to go down the dreaded “creamy” route. Luckily, just as I was getting ready to head out to the market, I watched a Moroccan Chef turn a grilled bell pepper soup “creamy” with a handful of macadamia nuts on TV. Now there’s an idea… an idea I instantly picked up, twisted, turned and used to come up with this yumtastic, healthy, truly satisfying and cream-free creamy roasted tomato soup~!
The Tomato Soup
600g Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large Cloves of Garlic, very finely sliced – you should end up with enough slices to top off at least 2/3 of the tomato halves
2 Sprigs of fresh Oregano, leaves picked and finely chopped
Alt: 1 Tsp dried Oregano
1-2 generous Pinches of Brown Sugar
5 Sundried Tomatoes, finely chopped
50g Cashew Nuts – you can use salted ones but make sure they’re not spiced in any other way
1 Tsp of Orange Juice
½ Tsp Pimenton
100ml Vegetable Stock – or Beef Stock for more oomph
100-200ml High Quality Tomato Juice
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Concentrated Tomato Purée – in case your tomatoes aren’t perfectly ripe and need a little lift
1) Roast the nuts in a small, dry pan set onto medium-low heat.
2) Once they’re nicely golden and the knee-buckling aroma of freshly toasted cashews starts to fill your kitchen, tip them into a bowl, drizzle them with the juice and dust them with a sprinkle of salt and Pimenton.
3) Toss them to distribute the spices, then spread them out on a plate or tray lined with baking parchment.
4) Set the tray aside for the time being, giving them some time to cool off.
5) Place the tomato halves in a large pan with the cutting surfaces facing up, preferably covering the bottom in a single layer.
6) Evenly distribute the garlic, and the sundried tomatoes on top of them and drizzle the lot with the olive oil.
7) Generously season them with salt, brown sugar and pepper.
8) Sprinkle the herbs on top, close the lid and get the show on the road.
9) Roast them for 25 minutes on medium-low heat until the tomatoes are basically falling apart on their own, then scatter the cashews over the tomatoes.
10) Transfer the tomatoes, cashews and all of the deliciously garlicky pan-juices into a blender. Add the stock, 100ml of the tomato juice and the tomato purée and blitz the juicy bunch into a smooth and, thanks to the nuts, creamy soup.
11) When you’re ready to serve, gently reheat the soup on low heat and have a taste.
12) To adjust the consistency, add a bit more of the stock or more juice if the soup seems too thick – stir in a splash of water if the flavor is too intense for your liking. Season with more salt and pepper if needed, and add a pinch of sugar if you feel the tomatoey acidity needs some adjustments.
The Crispy Tomato Balls
Ok, these are not quite as healthy as the soup, but since that’s skimming the zero-mark on the calorie scale, a few not-all-that-sinful bites won’t scramble your numbers in case you’re counting.
300g Ripe Plum Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Red Onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
75g Self-Raising Flour + more depending on the juicyness of the tomatoes
Alt: Chiabatta Bread-Flour Blend – an accidental discovery with a very nice result~
5g Baking Soda
A generous Pinch each of Salt and Pepper
40g Panko Flakes
1 Tbsp Concentrated Tomato Purée
30g Sundried Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Clove of Garlic
Sunflower or Rapeseed Oil for frying
1) Place the tomatoes, onions, salt, brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.
2) Lightly toss them to distribute the sugar, then cover the bowl with clingfilm.
3) Set the bowl aside and leave the mixture to rest for 1 hr.
4) Once that time’s up, tip the bowl and get rid of the liquids that will have gathered at the bottom of it.
5) In case the tomatoes still seem to be on the soggy side of things, give the mixture a very light squeeze to loose some more water.
6) Fold in the dry ingredients as well as the purée, garlic and herbs.
7) Snap on some CSI gloves and thoroughly knead the dough with your hands until very well combined. This dough always looks like a sticky and unmanageable mess at this point, so don’t worry.
8) Set the dough aside for 20-30 mins for another round of R&R.
9) To test if it’s ready for the oil, pick up a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and, with just a little bit of pressure, roll it into a ball. If you’ve put on a set of dough-gloves in the process instead of molding it into a ball, sift in some more flour and try again.
10) Pour enough oil into a pot or pan to fill it ¼ of the way up the rims. Set it onto medium-high heat and get it up to 170°C or to a point where a cube of bread dances up to the surface, nicely golden all around, within 30 seconds.
11) Roll up teaspoonfuls of the dough into tight little knobs.
12) Drop them into the oil in batches of 4-5 balls at a time.
13) Gently swirl the pot to keep them from sticking to it or each other.
14) Carefully flip them every 30 seconds to be rewarded with a nicely golden, even crisp.
15) An oil-bath of 1-2 mins per ball should do the trick. Use the color of the crisp as a more accurate timeline~
16) Once they’re nicely golden and crispy all around, take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to soak up excess oil until you’re through with the rest.
Assembling the Dish
1) Ladle the soup into warmed bowls.
2) Pop a few decorative tomato balls into the center and serve the rest of them in separate bowls.
3) Sprinkle a couple of cashews on top to garnish the servings and serve~