Tomato soup from tomato puree: easy, light but creamy without cream

     

    Tomato soup from tomato puree

     

    Time:        prep. 5 min
                      cook. 10 min
    Difficulty: very easy
    Yields:      2 portions
    Cost:         low

     

    Here is another recipe that marks my past in various stages and ages. Soup culture is firmly rooted in Turkish gastronomy; there is no meal that does not include a steaming bowl of ‘liquid pleasure’.
    In this context, tomato soup was a cult for me during the bus trip between Istanbul and Ankara; so many kilometers I used to travel with my mum and sister during the winter holidays to visit my grandparents. I used to endure endless hours without complaint, cuddling at the thought of that thick tomato soup awaiting us for lunch at the ‘Çizmeci’ hotel on Mount Bolu.

    Years later, the same tomato soup became a bookmark that opened and closed our summer holidays: a well-known cheese producer had opened his own roadside restaurant in the middle of the route between Istanbul and Altınoluk; here they were serving a fa-bu-louse tomato soup with an exaggerated amount of stringy cheese.

    But I have to thank to my dear friend Hilal if the tomato soap has been a permanent part of my own cuisine, because she was the one who taught me how to cook a perfect and easy tomato soup on board Yakamoz. It was thanks to her that I was able to enjoy it for the first time while admiring the lush nature, in the religious silence of the calm waters of the Gulf of Göçek… rather than in the midst of the hustle and bustle of cars and hungry people that is typical of every motorway service station.

    I hope you will forgive my amarcord, which especially thanks to the last anecdote might have shown you how really easy is to make tomato soup, given the limited space and stability on a sailing boat.
    Moreover, it is so good that it can be eaten in any season, although of course it is best enjoyed when the cool autumn evenings arrive.
    Although the greenhouses of modern agriculture provide us with tomatoes 12 months a year, eating them during their typical period, i.e. the summer, has several advantages: they are cheaper, taste much better and contain fewer pesticides (read more about this in the article here).
    But there is no downside to bringing them to the table in the form of puree or concentrate, thus providing a little color and antioxidants to the dishes; in fact, heat-treated tomatoes such as puree or concentrate offer a more bio available type of lycopene (a powerful antioxidant belonging to the group of carotenoids) (meaning that our bodies can absorb it more easily). Lycopene is found in nature in a different form to that which exists in the human body (trans isomers versus cis isomers); the high temperatures provided by cooking, by changing the shape of the molecules, transform the trans isomers of lycopene in their natural state into cis isomers, i.e. the ‘currency’ accepted by the human body, increasing the amount absorbed1.
    Adding oil, such as when making soup or sauce, further improves bioavailability: as lycopene is fat-soluble, oil makes it more available, and therefore more absorbable, than a raw, seasonal tomato can offer2.

    One last word on the sustainability of the tomato. Although the tomato plant is native to South America, it has been taking part (at the beginning in minor roles) in the European gastronomic scene since 1500, but its rise to culinary fame took almost two centuries. So the tomatoes that we grow widely today, even in our gardens or balconies, had to wait at least two centuries to become zero km. But there is a fact that threatens its sustainability and it is called “modern slavery”. Tackling this problem is easy if you can buy directly from the producer; if this is not possible, just reward brands from fair trade supply chains that combat illicit intermediation and labor exploitation (to find out more about the Tomato Revolution, click here).

     

    Ingredients

     

    400 grams of tomato puree
    1 heaped tablespoon of wholemeal flour
    1 glass of milk at room temperature (possibly organic): I use half a glass of sugar-free soy milk made by me (to see how to make it click here), and half a glass of cow’s milk
    1-1,5 glass of vegetable broth at room temperature (plain water is fine, just avoid bouillons cubes with MSG or excessive salt in general)
    1½ tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
    20 grams of grated cheese like caciotta (or other stringy cheese) to serve
    (Vegans can use only plant based milk, and use vegan cheese)

     

    Directions

     

    Preparing tomato soup is very easy.
    Put the oil in a saucepan and heat over a gentle flame, without ever letting it reach the point of smoke.
    Add the flour and increase the power a little, cooking for a few minutes and stirring constantly.
    When you smell the flour (it should not become brown), add the liquids (tomato puree, water or stock, and milk), stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming.
    Once the mixture is thickening and boiling, stop stirring and lower the heat; cook the soup like this for about 5 minutes. If, even though you have stirred it well, you still see the annoying lumps, quickly use a hand blender; or strain the soup through a sieve.
    Serve it hot in bowls, garnished with black pepper, a few leaves of freshly cut parsley, and categorically with string cheese. Believe me, you will never have enough.

    Extra tip

     

    Almost all recipes containing 00 flour, cream, butter and other eventually unhealthy ingredients can be replaced with those that offer better nutritional properties. Instead of 00 flour, you might use wholemeal flour, or legume flour; replace cream with milk or if unsweetened, also soya drink would also be good; instead of butter, you may certainly use extra virgin olive oil

    Smart combos

     

    Tomato soup is a guarantee of party time for the taste buds due to its rich umami content; but unfortunately it is not very rich in nutrients, which is why you may eat it as a first course, combined with a source of plant based (or other) protein such as stuffed tofu sticks (see recipe here); or meatless quinoa meatballs (see recipe here), or anything else you can imagine.
    In addition, soups in general are perfect vehicles for reducing bread waste (see here what else you can do to limit your bread waste).
    Cut stale bread into cubes; as long as it does not have mold, any hardness is fine. Take a non-stick frying pan and place it on the stove over low heat, add a little oil, there is no need to fry. Put a clove of crushed garlic in the pan, then pour in the bread together with some parsley leaves. As soon as the cubes are toasted, serve them over the hot soup, you will see that it will be love at first sight.

    Enjoy your soup and good revolution to all

     

    Bibliography
    1) Boileau, Thomas & Boileau, Amy & Erdman Jr, John. (2002). Bioavailability of all-trans and cis–Isomers of Lycopene. Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.). 227. 914-9. 10.1177/153537020222701012.
    2) Fielding JM, Rowley KG, Cooper P, O’ Dea K. Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):131-6. PMID: 15927929.

     

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