Soup for your soul

If anyone has looked at the weather report for this weekend (in Cape Town anyway) you would’ve noticed that cold front is officially in. It’s time to break out those old soup recipes, the ones that make the cook feel like he or she is standing over a life altering cauldron.

This Tuscan-style tomato and bread soup is pretty much like a bowl of Italy in your lap. Its intense tomato flavour, whole rosa tomatoes and anchovies is set to warm you from the pit of your belly to the tip of your nose. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, perfect for cultivating those flu fighting antibodies.

As a side note, sauvignon blanc is a surprisingly great combo with tomato. Something quite magical happens with the acidity in the tomato and the freshly cut grass of the this varietal get together. Try it out with this dish for a winning combination.

  • 500g ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
  • the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes
  • 500g or 2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread
  • 8 anchovy fillets to garnish

Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting tray and cook in the oven at 180ºC for about 20 minutes. This dehydrates the tomatoes and intensifies their flavour. They’ll punctuate the end product with deeply satisfying flavour.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stalks. Stir around and gently fry for a minute until softened. Add your tinned tomatoes, then fill the tin with water and add that to the pot. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, if need be, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mix well and season to taste. Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on a low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins, so remove them from the tray, remembering to scrape all the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil and oil from the tray.

Give the soup a good stir – you’re looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgey texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Then remove it from the heat and add 6 or 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between your bowls and serve with a little extra basil torn over the top and 2 anchovy fillets per serving. The most important thing with this soup is that you have a wonderfully intense sweet tomato basil flavour.