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Mary Contini recipe: Make the most of the last of the summer tomatoes

I HEARD that Heinz Cream of Tomato soup was originally created using San Marzano tomatoes. If this is true, they knew what they were doing. Over the last 100 years, they have sold over 8 billion tins.

San Marzano tomatoes are an elongated variety beloved of Italians to make their delicious sugos for pasta. They are grown widely in the southern province of Salerno, in the rich alluvial soils in the slopes of Vesuvius. These days, they command the status of DOP (protected Designation of Origin) they are so widely prized.

The last of the tomatoes for sale now are the end of the season and are soft and over-ripened. Any over-ripe tomatoes are perfect to capture in a home-made tomato soup. Serve with some country bread and a chunk of Isle Of Mull cheddar.

HOME-MADE CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP

50g unsalted butter

1 large white onion (about 225g), peeled and finely sliced

½ fennel bulb, chopped

1.25 kilo over-ripened tomatoes

1 teaspoon tomato puree

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Sea salt and black pepper

3-4 tablespoons double cream

Fresh basil

METHOD

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the onion slices and stir until coated well with the butter. Add the chopped fennel and stir.

Cover with the lid and sauté on a low heat until the onions are softened and translucent. Having the pot covered allows the onions and fennel to steam and sweeten.

Wash and chop the tomatoes into rough-sized pieces, removing the stalks and blemishes.

Add to the saucepan and stir in the tomato puree.

Cook for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have collapsed down and all the juices have been released.

Liquidise everything until smooth and then (the only boring part) use a wooden spoon to push the mixture through a fine sieve into the rinsed-out saucepan.

There will be about a tablespoon of waste, seeds, and skins etc, but most of the tomatoes will be used.

Warm the mixture and add enough water to create a good consistency.

Add the sugar and use the sea salt and black pepper to season to taste.

When ready to serve, warm the soup and stir in the double cream to add a delicious creaminess. Don’t bring the soup to a boil to prevent the cream separating.

Serve with torn fresh basil leaves.

(For a vegan version of this soup add a peeled and grated floury potato to the saucepan with the chopped tomatoes to help thicken the soup instead of using the double cream.)



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