Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? It is the To-amor-to that Amor himself spins on his axis while the world watches on in awestruck fascination. Really, what’s not to love about the tomato? Never mind the Reynoldsburgians who claim to have rights over the commercial origins of this ravishing red globe, or the Spanish La Tomatina fanatics who destroy a few hundreds of it spiritedly and tirelessly every year – the lovers of tomato are a unified lot and all have dibs on it in their own modest ways.
While the familiar Campbells soup ranks high on many a shelf and pantry in America, in the Indian kitchen, the tomato takes its place in chutneys and gravies and scores of everyday dishes. In fact, it would hardly be a stretch if we said the tomato is at the very core of Indian cooking. The conventional Indian supper consists in most part of breads and vegetable sides, where the base comprises an onion-garlic-tomato gravy into which different varieties of cooked vegetables are steeped.
The tomato even makes itself felt in a dessert, another chutney of sorts with dates, raisins and strains of sugariness running through it in close competition with a handful of spices used with ample restrain. With sensibilities that are well in tune with said order of spices, so to speak, and a culinary acumen that is rooted in their flavors, we’d barely flinch before adding a smattering of them to our Campbells on wintry Midwestern evenings when the bones would rattle and refuse to work in the kitchen. But there are days when nothing can stop us, in any part of the world, from stirring up a pot of tomato soup from scratch the way we know best to do, whether it is to soothe sicknesses or vitalize a worn-out-weekday dinner.
Indian-style Hot Tomato Soup
- 1 Pound ripe tomatoes
- 1 Carrot
- 2 Pods garlic
- 1 Tablespoon light olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Bay leaf
- ½ Teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ Teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ Teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ Teaspoon ground fennel
- 1/8 Teaspoon cayenne/red chili powder
- Pinch of turmeric
- ¼ Teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ Teaspoon sugar
- Salted butter or cream to top the soup
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters or eighths. Peel and chop the carrot and garlic.
- Place all the vegetables along with 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker or large soup pot. Once the pressure cooker whistles, reduce the heat and cook for about 5 minutes. If using a soup pot, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Transfer the vegetables and the liquids to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You may need to do this in batches.
- Strain the puree using a fine sieve, pressing to push all the liquid through. Discard the seeds and skins that are left behind in the sieve.
- Dry the pressure cooker or pot that you used and place on medium-low heat. Add the oil and butter and let the butter melt. Add the bay leaf and let it sizzle for a minute. Then toss in the coriander, cumin, red chili powder/cayenne, mustard, fennel, turmeric and black pepper. Sizzle the spices in the oil for a few second and once they start to darken slightly pour in the strained puree. Add the salt and sugar.
- Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Serve hot – topped with curls of salted butter or streaks of cream with fried croutons, soup sticks or Indian-style dunking rusks as accompaniments.
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