This is one of my favourite soups, pretty straight forward to make (though it can take a while), warming and incredibly high in vit C – perfect winter soup!
I’ve adapted a recipe by Belinda Jeffrey’s Tried and True Recipes – seriously, get the cookbook if you come across it, there’s so much goodness within – and posted it for some of our guests.
A key part to any roasted red pepper or tomato soup is, of course, the roasted red peppers or tomatoes. They’re going to take a little while so we get them on first. I have a couple of tricks to this that I find a lot easier than the traditional methods of roasting a whole pepper, which would be done first and then seeded and skinned for example, but just go with whatever works for you. I’ll demonstrate the one-armed-vagrant-method in a moment.
The capsicum take a bit longer than the tomatoes to roast, so we’ll start there. There are a lot that go into this soup – around 5 large ones for a regular quantity! (and I tend to double it..) Now as I mentioned I find the traditional method of roasting the whole capsicum rather clumsy, because I make a mess of the sweating and decoring after it’s all roasty and delicious – I especially struggle with bits of skin that just won’t come off. To counter this issue I decore and split the capsicum so that we don’t need to turn them while roasting (risking doing it unevenly and requiring more attention). It’s simply a case of decoring by popping out the stalk, seeds attached (see below) and then cutting in halves or thirds so that the section will sit flat on a tray. This takes a while to get just right the first time – you essentially want to cut them so that all of the skin is facing up to the top of the oven so it blisters well, but need to keep them cupped fairly well over the tray so that they roast from the inside without drying out. Sounds complex? Not to worry, the next 3,000 word description is in pictures:
Given that the peppers take a few minutes longer than the tomatoes, 25-30min usually, it’s best to slip them into the oven now.
Try not to admire them too long, you’ll want to get the tomatoes in within 5 minutes so that you look like you planned it when they both come out at the same time. Chop chop!
No really – chop the tops off so that the skins will simply pull off when they’re roasted rather than risk slow death by boiling oil (those crazy Greeks were on to something huh?). Flip the cut side down and drizzle with half the olive oil. Check your timer, set for another 20 minutes and slip them in the oven too, on the shelf below the peppers.
Once the peppers are starting to blacken and blistered all over, it’s A Sign – pull them out of the oven. If you’ve elected the cut them the same way I do the skins should blister right up to the edge… if the cuts were made too far over the skin too close to the tray will not blister properly and you’ll have a harder time removing it once they sweat.
If you’ve done this before you probably have a preferred method – if not, the first thing to know is that you’ll need to sweat the peppers for around 15 mins in order to let the steam build up under the skins in order to loosen them (and it doesn’t hurt to let them cool a bit before you start wrestling with the vegetable equivalent of tasty lava). There are as many ways to do this as there are … erm, different ways to do things … but the key to doing it right is to leave as little air around the peppers as possible, and to keep the heat in for long enough for the skins to loosen. In this case I’ve flattened alfoil down around the peppers on the tray, tucking in around the edges, and then laid a heavy tea towel over the top.
The tomatoes will come out of the oven just after the peppers – but use your judgement, as the ripeness of the tomato (I try to pick very- or even over-ripe) will affect how long they take to break down. Ideally you want the skins to dry and split so they pull away easily, and the top of the tomato to begin caving in on itself. This is a good sign that the flesh is well roasted, and will give the most flavour.
While the roasty bits are roasting (or cooling, if you’re mutitasking) it’s time to get the fragrant base going. The basic ingredients are pretty, well, basic, so odds are they’re on hand at any given time. Don’t be too fussy about prep as it’s all going to be oblitzerated later on anyway.
The volume of chilli and flavour of paprika can make a big difference to the balance in the end so pick wisely – though depending on the extent of your fascination with paprika, it may not be too tough. Either a smokey paprika or one that has been quickly heated in oil (this greatly changes the depth of some of the flavour) is recommended.
First up the onions go in with the rest of the oil, to heat slowly until they’re soft and golden / translucent – this will take around 8 minutes. Overcooking or caramelising the onions will result in a tart or burnt tone through the soup, so try not to overdo it!
I wish I could link through to a Smell-o-Vision cap of this next bit, it’s by far my favourite part thanks to some OUTRAGEOUSLY fragrant ingredients. Add chopped garlic, shake in some paprika, a small amount of chilli, a tablespoon of (ideally a mix of sun dried +) tomato paste or pesto and give it a quick stir on high heat until … well, you’ll know it when you smell it. I’m inclined to invent a new word to describe the heady scent that ascends from the pot at this point. As soon as it’s unleashed, take the pot off the flame.
And now for the messy part! Be warned that the peppers will leave a curious orange tint to one’s nails, so try and trick someone into peeling them for you. I recommend either ducking out to the shops or suddenly remembering some other minor but extremely important detail that requires your presence elsewhere for a few minutes. Just start on these for me would you? I’ll be back in no time! Once the peppers are cool, peel the skins off over their baking tray – this is where you find out how well you’ve blistered and sweated them. Dispose of the skins and shred the flesh into the pot, then pour the remaining juice in as well. The tomatoes are a sight easier if prepared correctly, the skins will literally slip off the top allowing you to pour the whole lot (roasting juices included – but not the skins) into the pot.
Add water – enough to cover the peppers & tomatoes, but no more than a litre – and a pinch of sugar and salt.
Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the peppers are really tender and easily crush under a spoon. The water will noticably change to an opaque … err, soupy colour.
Once done, blend in batches, season with salt and add a splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
The flavours will develop overnight – infact it’s often better after a day or two – and can be reheated or served cold in summer. A soft goat’s cheese or fruity extra virgin olive oil are great alternatives depending on tastes.
5 large red peppers / capsicum
450g ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup EV olive oil
1 large onion
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp mixed paste (sun dried tomato paste, tomato paste, ajvar (capsicum relish, etc)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 small red chillis or 1/2 tsp crushed chilli
pinch of sugar
sea salt to taste
red wine vinegar (or balsamic) to taste
sour cream or creme fraiche to serve
1. Preheat oven to 220C
2. Place peppers on a shallow tray (recommend deseeding/decoring first)
3. Cut the tops off the tomatoes and place (upside down) in a baking tin, drizzle half the oil over and roll them around to coat.
4. Place the peppers in the middle/upper tray of the preheated oven for 25 minutes, turning regularly if whole, remove once the skins blister.
5. Place the tomatoes on the shelf below the peppers for 20 minutes, remove once the skins being to split and tomatoes start to collapse.
6. While the tomatoes and peppers are in the oven, heat the rest of the oil in a large saucepan
7. Gently cook the onion until it’s soft and translucent (don’t caramelise), ~ 10 mins
8. Add garlic, tomato paste/pesto/etc, paprika and chillies to the pot and heat until fragrant
9. When the peppers are blistered all over, remove from the oven and cover with foil and a towel, leave to sweat for 15 mins.
10. Then then tomato skins are split and the fruit begins to collapse, remove from the oven and allow to cool until they can be handled.
11. Peel the skins off the tomatoes (dispose of the skins) and pour the tomatoes & juice into the waiting saucepan.
12. Peel away the skins from the roast peppers over the pan to catch juices, then add to saucepan.
13. Fire up the saucepan again, stir in water, sugar and salt, and bring to the boil.
14. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 mins until the peppers are tender.
15. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before blending in batches.
16. Adjust seasoning – it often requires more salt – and add a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar.
To serve, top with a dollop of soft goat’s cheese or sour cream, or a streak of EV olive oil.
Now to work out what to do with the left-overs…