Perhaps soup is not my favorite topic but it certainly seems to crop up quite a bit. It's food - and I suppose I am guilty of talking about food all the time. In fact I think about it all the time. What am I going to eat for lunch? What are we going to eat for dinner? What' left in the house? What do I need? Why do I have to have to make 3 trips to 4 stores to find the stuff I need for some simple dish? Why was I disappointed with the food at the last dinner party...וכו 'וכו'.
Soup comes up so often because I make it so often. There are virtually no tinned soups in Israel. There are frozen soups and there are powdered soups that have unreal colors. But they don't satisfy my craving for something hot, easy to eat and and easy to prepare. So shortly after I moved here I began to make soup regularly, perhaps two or three times a week. Usually the ingredients are cadged together from ingredients that were bought for some other more exciting dish and usually they are well past their sell-by date since I didn't end up using them in the "exciting" dish that never happened.
Sometimes however, the ingredient is something very simple like tomatoes. We have the best tomatoes in the world. No exaggeration. They not only look beautiful, they taste better. It is worth a trip here to eat them.
Last year I was craving cream of tomato soup so I looked up recipes online and not one appealed to me so I winged it. It was pretty good. Not memorable, but it did the trick.
Now it's November and the mornings and evenings are cool. I thought I'd make another tomato soup. I had half a container of medium sized tomatoes about the size of an egg that were looking very poorly - a few yellow cherries. They were beginning to dry out so I thought I had better do something with them before they ended up in the garbage. (Hate throwing out vegetables). And I had some celery.
Celery in Israel does not resemble celery in the U.S. and it actually has a taste that is quite pronounced and much stronger than the root. The stalks are very thin and the leaves are large. It often is comes with the celeriac attached.
Celery and tomatoes are an unlikely combination for me but last year's soup was too heavy - too much like the tinned soup I was craving. I decided that I would use the celery and see what would happen.
As with most soups, I started with onions. But his time I restrained myself and used only half an onion and sunflower oil. I wanted to taste the celery. I added fresh chili and then the tomatoes and then the celery stalks. I sautéed the lot. When the tomatoes began to sweat I added one whole garlic clove and a pinch of salt. I cooked the vegetables until they started to breakdown and then I added a pinch of sugar, a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of flour. When the flour was well mixed I added boiling water. I threw in a herb bundle (bayleaf wrapped around thyme and cloves) and let it cook for a very short time - maybe 10 minutes.
I fished out the herb bundle and blitzed the lot with the hand blender. The aroma from the soup was amazing. So different from the soup last year. At one point I thought I would need to add a potato for body but the vegetables performed all on their own.
Though the soups look alike, they were worlds apart.
I hope you try this recipe and enjoy.
As with all the recipes it will be also be published later under a Creative Commons License. The attribution is important to me. If you enjoy the soup, let me know and don't forget the shout-out.
BT's Tomato and Celery Soup (Hebrew version coming soon)
1 kg tomatoes - any variety as long as they are sweet when eaten raw
3 stalks celery with leaves - preferably stalks that are still attached to the root
1/2 large yellow onion
2 jalapeño or 1 serrano chilis
30 ml sunflower oil or ghee
15 ml unsalted butter
1 clove fresh garlic
15 grams flour
pinch of sugar
1 1/2 litres boiling water
1 herb bundle (two bay leaves, thyme, whole cloves)
Salt to taste
Dice onion and celery in very small pieces
Roughly chop tomatoes into quarters or eighths
Seed and devein the chili.
Add oil to heavy gauge pot
Turn heat on low
Add onions and chili. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until onions turn translucent
Turn heat up to medium and add tomatoes
Sauté tomatoes for 2 minutes.
Add celery and continue to cook on medium heat until tomatoes begin to sweat
Add salt and sugar. Cook for 1 minute
Add butter and flour. Cook for 1 minute
Add boiling water and garlic clove.
Bring to boil.
Add herb bundle.
Cook for 10 minutes
Remove herb bundle
Purée soup with hand blender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Can be served hot or cold
Garnish with any of the following: labane, croutons, coriander, grated cucumber.