Monday, 23 January 2017

Spicy tomato and pepper soup

Recently on the children's TV channel Cbeebies they started showing a new version of the classic 60s/70s animation The Clangers. It was pretty faithful to the original, even down to using the same traditional stop-motion animation technique over modern CGI. If you don't know what it's about, it centres on the adventures of a group of mouse-like things, the Clangers, that live on a planet in the middle of space. It's got a definite whiff of the psychedelics about it as, in addition to the Clangers there is also an iron chicken, flying cow things and a Soup Dragon. Not that I'm implying that there was consumption of any mind-altering substances on or around the set of the original series but, yes,  a Soup Dragon. A Dragon that makes and sells fucking soup. Furthermore, the Soup Dragon (or SD) is a lone parent with a baby or, a little Soup Dragon. An LSD, if you will. As I say, I don't mean to imply anything. Anyway, if the good old Soup Dragon produced something like the soup from this recipe, I can see why the Clangers were happy and well fed (they are quite portly, see below).

A Clanger and the Soup Dragon
It's kind of like Breaking Bad for toddlers
Image taken from

I've really got into making soup recently. It's just so fucking easy, it tastes great and it saves shitloads of cash. You make a pan full of soup and it costs maybe a couple of pounds, then take a big portion to work the next day when it saves you three or four quid that you might pay in buying a sandwich. Then you take it the next day, and the next... Nothing can beat that first taste of your freshly made soup of a Sunday night you use to check if it's any good. Thing is, it's a good job if it does taste great because you're going to be eating it for lunch for the next three or four days. I admit it does get a bit boring by Wednesday. It shows you really can get too much of a good thing.

Thing about soup, though, is, what's not to like? Warming (usually, gazpacho is on my to-do list come next summer), tasty and filling. As I said in a previous entry, it is the ultimate comfort food, though usually in the UK that equates to something you open a tin to heat up or a sachet of dried gunk you add boiling water to. Tomato soup from Heinz is advertised as being the comfort food of winter. So much so that some twat they have on the advert is looking forward to the end of summer and welcoming the dark, damp, cold winter evenings so she can enjoy the tomato soup.Talk about over-egging the pudding. That's like looking forward to sleeping on the wet patch after sex, for fuck's sake. It hardly fits the image they peddle as being wholesome, either, as it's made by the megatonne in some fuck-off huge factory in Wigan and it contains, amongst its ingredients, modified cornflour, milk proteins, acidity regulator and herb and spice extracts. Just like mother used to make. Not that I have anything against industrial-sounding ingredients in prepared food. People whine about "chemicals" in their food, but food is actually nothing but chemicals, whether it comes from a wanky, organic delicatessen or from a huge factory. No, the problem I have is marketing this shit as something "wholesome" to give it the veneer of being made in an earthenware pot by some buxom farmer's wife when it's actually produced in a massive stainless steel vat in an industrial plant the size of an aircraft hangar somewhere.

While I really, really object to food fads and that kind of bollocks, tinned soups are rightly gaining a bit of a reputation for being very high in salt and sugar. Tinned tomato soup especially tends to be incredibly sweet and quite sickly. But, if you make your own, you know what's in it and it won't be as cloying.

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 60 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughtly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
700g fresh tomatoes
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
2 vegetable stock cubes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 litre water
2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil in a good-sized pan and throw in the onions.

Gently cook these for a good 10 minutes then add the garlic, carrot and celery

Keep these cooking for another 10 or so minutes, so it gets soft but not brown, and add the peppers and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well

Heat to a gently boil, turn down the heat and leave to gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Blend to smooth with a hand blender

It's a pan full of soup.
Not much to add, really

Serve with bread. Makes a great lunch or, I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing, a starter. A panful this size would make a good four to six hearty lunch portions.

Pretty much all of my soup recipes are like this: onions, celery, carrot, other vegetables. Stew, blend, done. You can use any old crap you have in the fridge or vegetable rack, season it and there's your soup. You can put anything in it, tinker with the flavour with a few spices and other stuff and Bob's your uncle. I've done lots of different soups and they all tasted pretty good.

I'd be doing a disservice to pop culture and the very ethos of this blog if I didn't do a call-back to the Soup Dragon and post this piece of early nineties Madchester scene by the band of the same name

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