Adapted from Complete Illustrated Cookery Course by Delia Smith
The truth is, I don’t really like tomatoes. Well I do, but I’m fussy. I like pasta sauce, tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes… Sometimes I even like little cherry tomatoes, if they are firm and sweet and juicy. But I’m a child of 70s Britain. I do not like out of season watery tomatoes. I do not like ‘furry’ tomatoes that are all mushy on the inside when sliced. I do not like slightly bitter, and otherwise tasteless, cherry tomatoes on the vine (rolls eyes) in a plastic tray in a ton of plastic wrap from the supermarket. That’s not to say all tomatoes are bad. It’s just my experience of tomatoes that are not out of tins, cartons or jars is occasionally pleasant but I am frequently disappointed. It is not a fruit I can forgive very easily.
The second truth is that if it wasn’t for Delia Smith I probably wouldn’t be able to cook at all. My mum would be the first to admit that culinary expertise was not one of the attributes that drew my dad to her! I remember watching Delia, fresh-faced and dressed in a whole lot of brown, on TV telling a nation of women (and possibly a handful of men) that with a plucky attitude and the right ingredients they too could rustle up something half-way decent for dinner. My mum was then able to pass on her new skills to me, and my grandparents gave me my copy of Delia’s cookery course for my 21st birthday. So it seems right I should delve into it from time to time here.
This week, in my vegetable box, I received a punnet of large tomatoes. I wrinkled my lip at them in suspicion. I also have acquired a little glut of apples. And I have some celery, which I buy mostly to go in stocks or for nibbling but tends to go yellow before I’ve made it all the way through the head. This recipe from Delia’s book (but actually by John Tovey) is just the thing then. What I love is that it tastes and feels creamy to eat, but there is none in it. Now cream is on my list of foods not to be eaten, it makes the recipe all the more special to me. And for a relatively thin soup the flavour is delicate but complex. The slow sweating of ingredients at the beginning of the recipe makes the final dish so much more than the sum of its parts. Even friends who have said they are no fan of celery have happily eaten this soup. Although the original contains butter and chicken stock (great if you’re doing the healing gut thing with bone broth), it is easily adapted with olive oil and vegetable stock to a vegan delight. It also is a bit of a fussy recipe, with very specific quantities of ingredients. I’m a bit more… slapdash? But I’ve found it comes out great if you don’t deviate too far from the orignal so a few grams here don’t make a huge amount of difference. What you get either way is a wonderful weekend soup if you don’t want anything too hearty knowing a larger meal is coming your way at some point. And it gets rid of those pesky fresh tomatoes.
Tomato, apple and celery soup
Prep time 10 minutes Cook time 80 minutes Makes 4 (adult) servings
Cut a sheet of greaseproof paper that when folded in half will fit into your large saucepan
- 50g butter or 3 tbsp olive oil
- 100g or 1 medium large onion finely chopped
- 150-175g or 2 smallish apples quartered (skin and pips will be strained out later)
- 150-175g celery or 4 stalks cut into 2 inch pieces (include leaves)
- 150-175g or 1 large tomato cut into quarters (skin and pips will be strained out later)
- 60ml dry sherry
- pinch ground ginger
- grated nutmeg
- 500ml chicken (bone broth) or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- croutons (optional)
- parmesan cheese, or vegetarian Italian hard cheese (optional)
Heat the butter or oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cook the onions over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the sherry, seasonings, fruit and veg to the pan and give it a stir. Tuck the greaseproof paper into the saucepan so it completely covers the contents with a double layer. Pop the lid on and cook over a very low heat for 1 hour. Check from time to time that the contents aren’t catching the bottom of the pan, and give a stir if necessary. After an hour stir in the stock and transfer to a liqudizer or use a stick blender. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan and reheat. Ladle into warmed bowls and top with crispy croutons and finely grated cheese if using.