I am very excited because tomorrow we are off on an unexpected jaunt to the Jurançon wine district in France and then travelling back here next week via Amsterdam – a city I have always wanted to visit. Getting to places from here is never simple, so we are going by a very convoluted route, which involves four different airlines. (*Sighs dramatically*) The route was originally going to involve the TGV, but in view of the strikes, we’ve decided to avoid that option.
You may have spotted that this is a subtle way of saying that you probably won’t be hearing from me for at least a week. Sorry folks, but you can work your way through the back catalogue if you are in need of dinner inspiration – just think of it as revision or a chance to spot something you missed previously.
The cats are excited because their lovely friend Eliza is coming to look after them – all the way from Thailand – we will pass like ships in the night at Dalaman Airport, with just enough time to catch up over a quick coffee in between our respective flights arriving and departing. We are spending tomorrow night in Istanbul, so I strongly suspect a fish dinner in Yeşilkoy – a really charming fishing village close to the airport, where we always stay when we are in Istanbul – will be at the top of the programme.
There is a large colony of dolphins in the Sea of Marmara and we have a lucky track record of spotting them from our hotel balcony, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for a full house tomorrow night.
Tonight’s dinner is ‘clear up the fridge soup’. That can mean anything in this house, but this evening’s offering features tomatoes and red peppers, slowly roasted with chunks of red onion and a generous amount of sweet new season garlic, which I picked up in the greengrocer this week. Roasting the vegetables really concentrates the flavours and brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers, plus you get all those lovely caramelised edges, which makes this soup taste so special. Some courgettes would also be a lovely addition to this.
By all means add a slug of cream right at the end if the mood takes you – we’ll just be having some freshly picked basil from our never-ending basil bushes, which are making a rapid recovery after being lopped to evict all the caterpillars a few weeks ago.
Without the cream, this is a low-fat, low-calorie dish, so it would be perfect for a diet day. It is also delicious served chilled – probably best without the cream in that case, and add the basil when you are about to serve the soup.
À toute à l’heure mes amis!
Slow-roasted tomato and red pepper soup
350g red peppers
2 medium red onions
1 whole head of fresh garlic (normal garlic is fine, but half a head would probably be enough)
1 teaspoon sugar
A good scattering of oregano (or thyme)
600ml stock – any sort is fine, use a cube if don’t have fresh
A little double cream (optional)
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, shredded
Pre-heat the oven to 190C.
Line a large roasting tray with foil or baking paper – the tin needs to be large enough to take the vegetables in a single layer or they will steam rather than roast.
Cut the tomatoes into large wedges (or just halve if they are small). De-seed the peppers and cut into chunks of a similar size to the tomatoes. Peel the onions and cut into thin wedges. If you are using new season garlic, just separate the cloves and add them to the rest of the vegetables – peel the cloves if you are using regular garlic.
Spread the vegetables out on the tray, season generously with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the sugar and herbs. Generously drizzle with olive oil and give everything a good mix.
Roast for 40 minutes to an hour – check after 40 minutes. You want the vegetables to be turning a lovely caramel brown on the edges but no so brown that they are starting to burn, which may give your soup a bitter taste. As you can see from the photo, this is a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ as I left mine in the oven a bit too long while I was packing. Pah.
Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan large enough to take the vegetables. Add the roasted vegetables to the stock, making sure you scrape up all the lovely juices and brown bits from the tin. Add the cayenne and then simmer gently for 10 minutes to combine all the flavours before blending with a stick blender or in a jug blender. Taste for seasoning. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, if using, and the shredded fresh basil. Serve at once with crusty bread.