I love the family names and words that develop over time for our everyday things. When Joe was little he struggled to say Grandpa, so my Dad became ‘Bubba’. He still is.
Hella developed a love for pasta at a young age but ‘shabba’ was easier to say than ‘pasta’ in between messy mouthfuls.
Soup has always played a significant role in our family eating. For me it ticks all the boxes – tasty, nutritious, easy to throw together in a hurry, reheats well, freezes like a dream and great in a flask for school. And now that we live in Dubai, one of the hottest countries in the world …… I would say we eat even more soup than ever.
I suppose I thought we enjoyed quite a range of soups, but when Hella one day asked me, “Is it ‘Normal’ soup tonight?” I had to wonder HOW often we were actually eating this particular soup. But, hey – for me it’s a winner and it’s easy to see why. It started life as Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups but then morphed into a much more relaxed recipe where exact quantities are unimportant and precision is not a factor. ‘Normal’ soup was born.
The exact quantities of peppers and tomatoes are not critical. Add as much (or as little) stock as you like – I’ve found that thicker soups work better in school lunch flasks ….. less risk of lunch decorating the school shirt – and sneaking a bit of super thick soup out before adding the rest of the stock makes the perfect beginnings of a pasta sauce. This is relaxed cooking at its best.
I’m not sure that calling anything ‘normal’ ever fills me with joy but for me this is the exception – a soup that warms the soul as well as the stomach and is anything but ‘normal’.
What is your ‘normal’ soup? Let me know ……
- 6 (ish) red peppers, halved and deseeded
- 10(ish) ripe tomatoes, halved
- A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 small bunch fresh basil - save a little to garnish
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
- 900ml stock (vegetable or chicken) - I use powdered stock and boiling water
- A few small dollops of pesto - loosened with extra olive oil
- 2 or 3 shallow baking trays and enough tin foil to cover them.
- Preheat the oven to 190ºC / 375ºF / Gas Mark 5.
- Place the red peppers skin side up on one (or two) of the baking trays. Fill the remaining space on the trays with the tomatoes - cut side up. They will all shrink a bit in the oven so you can squeeze them in.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over the peppers and tomatoes and give them all a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour until the peppers are soft and slightly collapsed and the tomatoes are very soft.
- While the peppers and tomatoes are cooking, heat a little oil in a large pan (big enough to hold the finished soup). Cook the onion and garlic very gently without colouring. Add the cooked peppers and tomatoes as well as all the delicious juices from the trays. If you are careful at the this point, you may get away with simply removing the tin foil and having no washing up to do - a bonus.
- Add about two-thirds of the stock and most of the basil leaves to the pan. Using a hand-held blender, purée the contents of the pan until smooth. Now add the additional stock until you have your chosen consistency.
- Serve piping hot, garnished with a swirl of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil and a few basil leaves.