The OED describes simple as being, ‘easily done; presenting no difficulty’. As ‘not complicated or elaborate; without luxury or sophistication’. To me, simple is luxury; it is sophistication. Why, then, is it so hard? Simple is something I seem to go to great, sometimes complicated, lengths to achieve. But something happened late last year in my kitchen; an unknowable, unfathomable something changed and my cooking has since become an untangled, simplified joy.
Holler’s request for this month’s edition of No Croutons Required was a menu – a birthday menu no less – that featured, during the course of the meal, a soup or salad of tomatoes. Here’s what I served in honour of Holler, this just-passed long weekend:
Simplest Tomato Soup
Peppers Stuffed with Rice and Taleggio
Rocket and Grain Mustard Salad
Honey Ice Cream
For this to work, your tomatoes must taste good. Really good. Tomatoes grown in the earth as opposed to those grown hydroponically will, I guarantee, make all the difference. They need not be pretty. In fact this soup is just made for ugly, bumpy tomatoes, especially those that sit precariously on the verge of total collapse – ones, as Nigel Slater would say, that you have to shoo the wasps from are perfect. Also, I think you should wait until the end of their season, as tomatoes at the beginning and even the height of summer are expensive and don’t quite yet taste of the Mediterranean sun. Simple is all in the timing.
I even got out a good tablecloth and matching napkins. Fancy.
Simplest tomato soup
This soup is thick, rich and the very essence of tomato. If there is such a thing, that is. 750g (that’s 1½ lbs (ish) for the metrically-challenged) will feed four if served as part of a larger meal; otherwise, reckon on this amount serving just the two of you for lunch. With bread, for mopping, naturally.
Take some tomatoes, the kind that are moments from collapsing into a messy end-of-season heap, and roughly chop them. Peel and chop a clove or two of garlic. Get out a good sized saucepan. Chuck in the tomatoes, the garlic, a swig of olive oil and another of good whisky (this is for a Scottish Birthday celebration after all - omit it by all means). Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes. Give things a little shake from time to time, but don’t be precious. Simple is the point.
Cool a little, then puree in a blender. Wash out the saucepan, dry it, and set a sieve over the top. Press the tomato puree through using the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much deliciousness as possible. Add a spoonful of honey to taste, warm over a gentle heat and serve dolloped with plain, thick yoghurt.