I’ve been wondering for a few days now what I should do with the pound of tomatoes sitting on a cool shelf in my kitchen – beautifully red and still slightly fragrant, hinting of warmer days. They are bizarrely – and unintentionally – festive, brightly coloured ornaments reminiscent of Christmas as they remain on display. But they are also slowly over-ripening, beginning to soften and bruise, and using them has become something of a priority.
As I need to eat them quickly – rather than savouring them as individual fruit – it makes sense to turn them into a sauce that can be used as a base for something warm and hearty, a soup or casserole that will suit the cold and wet weather of winter (even here in Los Angeles). For me, the perfect way to do this is to roast them first, although it does make the process a little more time-consuming. Adding some olive oil, garlic and salt before roasting at a relatively high temperature seems to intensify the flavour. And if you’re not bothered about making something dainty – if it’s a sauce that doesn’t need to be strained or sieved – then it’s also a very straight-forward way of producing something wonderfully tasty. Highly preferable to what I usually get from a can, it also seems a bit decadent, not least because roasting tomatoes smell so absolutely wonderful.
And so this is what I decided to do, incorporating them into a substantial and nourishing lentil soup flavoured with cumin and coriander. Along with some large chunks of crusty bread it made an excellent supper.
Recipe: Lentil and Roasted Tomato Soup
16 oz ripe tomatoes (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes, preferably organic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to season)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
12 oz red lentils (washed)
1.2 litres vegetable stock
To garnish (optional):
A handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 green chilli, sliced
Depending on their size, cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters, and remove the core. Place them in an ovenproof dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything together. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and slightly browned. Leave for 10 minutes or so, and when they are cool enough to handle remove the skins (which will come away easily), gently reducing the tomatoes to a pulpy consistency at the same time.
While the tomatoes are cooking, heat another tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Add the lentils and stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes.
I like to leave this soup with a convincing, comforting, hearty texture but if you prefer something smoother, leave to cool a little before processing in a liquidiser. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper only if required, and serve piping hot, garnished with coriander leaves and chilli slices (if you want).