This is, for the moment, my favourite winter soup. It's an amped-up vegan version of Heinz Tomato Soup. It has all the elements you’d expect in the tinned classic - the savoury fruitiness, the creamy richness, the touch of sweetness - plus an extra dimension of fragrance and heat from fresh ginger and a sprinkling of ground spices. Like it’s less-spiced forbear, this soup is a byword for comfort food, at least in my house; it’s exactly the thing for chilly days, sad days, and sick days. It’s an all-round tonic, good for what ails you - and very good with crusty bread.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 stalk of celery, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
500ml good-quality vegetable stock
400ml vegan cream (I like oat- or soy-based creams for this, but full-fat coconut milk would also work)
A big squeeze of tomato paste (1-2 tbsp)
3 tablespoons sugar
2-3 inches fresh ginger root (to taste)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A dash or two of chilli flakes
A dash of ground cayenne pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Two handfuls of sweet cicely or tarragon
1./ Heat the olive oil in a large pot or pan over a medium-high heat. Add to this the onion and garlic, and fry till fragrant and translucent (about five minutes). Add in the bay leaf and celery and fry for a further three or four minutes.
2./ Tip in the tinned tomatoes, the stock and the tomato paste. Stir thoroughly and allow the mixture to boil for about fifteen minutes.
3./ Turn the heat down low. Add in the cream, sugar, ginger, and spices, and simmer for ten minutes.
4./ Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup till smooth. Add a squeeze of lemon and season to taste, before blending briefly again.
5./ If necessary, return the soup to the heat before serving; it should be piping hot when you eat it. Top with roughly chopped sweet cicely or tarragon, alongside a hunk of crusty bread.
Until next time...