Monday, 2 February 2009

Tomato Soup (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

When I was little, Saturdays meant two things; ballet and soup. Looking back, I’m not sure which of the two was more of an ordeal. Shall we start with the ballet?

Apparently I wasn’t bad at ballet. My exam certificates mainly show ‘Distinction’ and the examiners had kind comments for me, ‘Lovely footwork’, ‘neatly turned out’, ‘very engaging smile’. Interesting isn’t it how two people can view an event so differently? From what I recall that engaging smile was a rictus of fear; those examiners frightened the life out of me.

There’s more. At dancing displays I was fêted as Little Bo Peep, tripping around the hall with a crook topped with silver foil, theatrically looking for my invisible sheep. I stole the show as the spider in a duet with Little Miss Muffet, although I suspect it was my Mum’s rather marvellous spider costume that got me the vote. It was a slinky all-in-one with four newspaper stuffed legs that stuck out at right angles from my waist and thighs. They were attached to my arms with cotton so that when I raised my arms (in a balletic manner), the extra arms moved with them and I was a dead ringer for a spider. Clever, no?

The weekly ballet classes were all about pointing and pliés and pas de chat. The teacher would stalk up and down the row, tilting our chins up, patting a wayward bulging stomach and tapping us on our ’undercarriage’; ’Tuck it under!’. If only I still could. There were set dances to be learnt, one called the Tarantella which was performed with a tambourine whilst wearing a flowing skirt. I could probably still run through the opening few steps if push came to shove. It involved thwacking the tambourine forcefully onto your hip, then whirling it above your head. I think we were meant to look all passionate Italian gypsy-like and wild. Oooo I did like that one.

So, you might be wondering why you haven’t seen me in Billy Elliot?

Well, it was the Eisteddfods that did for me. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I regularly took part in these ballet competitions. I remember it all very clearly. The white tutu, the heavy make-up, the satin ballet shoes instead of the regular leather ones, the character dances with costumes…and most of all, the fear. The churning tummy, the ballet teacher sternly telling us that it didn’t matter if we forgot our routine, we should just keep dancing, anything would do, but we must never, never, stand like a rabbit in headlights in the middle of the stage. I saw a few girls do that, most of them tiny like me - I was about 6 or 7 at the height of my ballet career - but thankfully I always managed to dance through to the end. Then, when that ordeal was over, came the next one; waiting for the results. Then filing onto the stage to stand in a graceful semi-circle, the stage smile hiding the disappointment at not being placed in the top three. Dreadful. In the end I asked Mum not to take me anymore because it was all too stressful.

So, Saturdays were really not my favourite day. Which brings me to the second horror; the soup. Now my Mum was a tired woman. She worked a full week, then weekends meant catching up on the cooking and cleaning and ferrying me to ballet. No wonder she made soup. Well, kind of didn’t make it. Sort of opened a tin, or worse, opened a packet. The tinned stuff wasn’t so bad, although the charmingly named oxtail with the occasional morsel of gristle wasn’t really my favourite. The tomato soup was a bit better, but loaded with so much sugar it made my throat sore. The packet soup though, was the stuff of nightmares. Thin, tasteless and - be still my gagging throat - often with globules of unmixed powder that had escaped Mother‘s whisk. Bleurgh.

So why on earth would I want to inflict soup on my poor, defenceless children? Well, a little bit of food allergy goes a long way, and there are really not many things that a vegetarian, milk- egg- nut- and mustard-allergic child can eat. Couple that with said allergic child being, a little picky about eating vegetables, well really there is only one solution. Soup. Soup that hides a multitude of vegetables.

When I first had a go at tomato soup I was fairly certain what the outcome would be; sulky children staring at their bowls, refusing to eat. Well, I was wrong. My beaming eldest daughter informed me that it was almost as good as the stuff you get in tins from Lidl (she must have had that at someone else’s house) and my littlest allergic one happily tucked in, blissfully unaware of the hidden veg. What a success! I was tempted to execute a pirouette or two, and do a few pas de chat around the kitchen! In the end I settled for a modest curtsy, being sure to smile engagingly in the direction of the examiners.

Furthermore, you can make enormous vats of this and freeze it, so that when you get back with your children from those terrible ballet competitions, you’ll be able to soothe their troubled souls with wholesome tomato soup. Bingo.

Tomato Soup for Ballet Saturdays (This amount serves approx 6, but increase or decrease the quantities as you see fit)
Now I have made this every which way over the last couple of years. Of course the main ingredient is tomatoes, but after that you can chuck in any orangey or pale vegetable you fancy. Not green. Green is hard to hide in this soup. But sweet potato, carrot, swede, whatever you want, you just chop and chuck.
This is a soup that is kind to the careworn.
This is a soup for you.

About 6 beef tomatoes
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 leek
1 small sweet potato
2-3 button mushrooms
Olive oil
1 tsp of pistou if you can buy it, if not, a handful of fresh basil will do the trick
approx 500ml water
1-2 stock gluten free, dairy free, egg free stock cubes
200-500ml passata (depending on the quantity you are making)
2 tbsps tomato puree if necessary
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Now my dear friend Franny says my recipes are too labour intensive (I love you Franny, see you next week), so she will completely disapprove of me insisting that you remove the skins from your tomatoes. However I'm afraid I will have to insist on that, it goes back to a traumatic childhood incident (not ballet-related), and in my humble opinion your soup will be nul and void if you leave the skins on your tomatoes. I do have a simple(ish) way of doing it though. Use a knife to cut around the stalky bit of the tomato; cut a cone shape so that you remove most of the evil heart as well. Then cut your tomatoes in half and throw them into your big soup saucepan/stock pot (which should have a lid)
  • Roughly chop the onions, leek, garlic and mushrooms and throw them into the pan as well. Add enough olive oil so that it won't stick to the bottom of the pan, add the tbsp of pistou (if using fresh basil, we'll add that later) and heat on a medium heat stirring occasionally. When it's all sizzling, put the lid on the saucepan, turn the heat down low and let everything sweat a little
  • Do a bit of a grand jeté across the kitchen to get back to your chopping board
  • Peel and roughly chop the sweet potato and the 'normal' potato
  • Stir the vegetables in the pan, have you noticed how the tomato skins are beginning to curl and get a bit baggy? Stay with it
  • Put the two kinds of potato into the pan, and add the 500ml of water and the 1-2 stock cubes. You should have enough liquid to amply cover the vegetables, add a bit more if you're not sure
  • Now bring it all to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes or so. You might want to do an arabesque or half a kilo of battement frappé while you wait
  • Now, have a look at your tomato skins. Some will have peeled off completely, others are hanging on determinedly. This next part will have Franny groaning, but using a knife and fork, fish around in the soup and remove all the skins, it's really not that difficult
  • Next, if the potato is cooked, add the fresh basil if using, and then use a hand blender to blend the soup until it's smooth. Add the passata and blend again. You can add more water if it seems too thick and isn't smooth enough
  • Taste your soup, and you'll probably find that it's a bit acidic, add some sugar, you can build up to 1 tbsp of sugar gradually, or just whack it all in, up to you. Taste again, and add salt and pepper to taste. You can also now add the tomato puree if you feel that it's not tomatoey enough
  • Et voila! It's done! Now how about a little soubresaut to finish?
© Pig in the Kitchen 2009


Vittoria said...

that looks delish! I never thought of adding sweet potato to tomato soup. Brilliant

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Vittoria, bless you for your kind comments! i wouldn't have thought of it either, but just desperate to cram as many nutrients into my daughter as possible!

kath said...

I never danced or had to go to a Saturday class. My mother stayed at home and cooked from scratch. But we always had tinned tomato soup. I am going to make this soup, it sounds wonderful. I shall peel the tomatoes before they go in the pot though. Make a cross on the bottom, pour boiling water over them and the skins will slip right off!

jeanie said...

I too grew up with the tinned version - and then learned how wonderful the real stuff can be.

Oh - and I skin my tomatoes in the soup in EXACTLY THE SAME MANNER.

Call it collective subconscious.

Of course, I was a single, childless vego in those days, so I didn't have to hid other vegies - good move to you!

Vittoria said...

Now that you remind me, I have to hide fruit and veg from my fiance too. I mix spinach and other greens into hamburgers, and I make breads and muffins with fruit bases. Whatever works, right? :)

Iota said...

I had tomato soup for lunch today, funnily enough. Didn't look as good as yours though.

You're tagged over at my place.

Alisa ( said...

I love that you used tomatoes and sweet potatoes together in that lovely looking soup!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Mmmm, lovely! Reading your stories, I hadn't realised your recipes were labour intensive. I'm afraid that as with most recipes I don't read the method but today I made the effort, read every single word and realise now that I've been missing a treat.

Kitty said...

I never went to ballet lessons as a child - too much like a baby elephant I think!

I'm a huge fan of soup too - love it. x

Vegetation said...

I sadly chose to try ballet at the ripe old age of 7 I think, by which stage most of the kids my age had progressed way beyond beginner.

Couple that with the fact that I was tall and had a long neck (as the teacher was so fond of pointing out much to my misery) meant that I lasted a grand total of about 12 months and one concert of terror such as you describe before I bowed out (somewhat ungracefully~a childish tantrum amounting to me refusing to go any longer :P).

Soup wasn't always on the same day of ballet, but was like yours, out of a tin and I've never been much of a fan of it.

I'm slowly learning that when made at home with fresh veggies it can be wonderful though and tomato based ones are definitely my favourite (especially with a handful of rice thrown in).

So thank you for a delicious recipe and hopefully a way to fill my kids up with veggies!

screamish said...

traumatic childhood incident involving tomato skins???? do tell!!!!

glutenfree4goofs said...

Does it work for Basketball Saturday? More often sticking your arse out to get a block rather than "tuck it in" but I think the soup might just do the trick! Thanks for another great recipe.

Grit said...

i am a big soup fan, and have converted squirrel, who has plans to add coconut and red pepper to my leek and potato.

as for the ballet, squirrel has not converted me. i have hidden her ballet shoes and plan to cut a hole in her tutu.

Akelamalu said...

I have a vision of you in a tutu!

Our favourite homemade soup is Olive Oil and two Bean soup. Of course it's got lots of veg in too but I doubt whether the kids would eat it! :)

lowood6 said...

Hi PITK! Great combination - tomato & sweet potato - I am definitely going to try this recipe! Do you think ballet can help me attain some graceful air? (If only there were ballet lessons for clumsy adult like me...) BTW, your banana muffin recipe (+cocoa pwdr for half) made an awesome marble cake!!!

Suffolkmum said...

Hi - so lovely to read your gorgeous blog again; I disappeared from blogland for a while but am gingerly stepping back in. Great recipe - my daughter is a Saturday ballet girl, I think I might just try this for her, what's not to love about tomato soup with sweet potato?!

Simply...Gluten-free said...

I love tomato soup, this version I must try! Check out my latest post for a free give away of a great book on gluten

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Pig, got obscure e-mail from your e-mail address over the weekend which looked like spam. Have you had any hackers, probs with the computer?

Amanda x

Frog in the Field said...

Hi Pig, I'm a huge Sweet Potato fan, as opposed to a huge sweet potato.

Mya said...

Absolutely souper!
My parents sent my elder sister to ballet because she was clumsy. It didn't make any difference, she's still a complete oaf, bashing into everything and tripping over stuff. Show her a lampost, and the next thing she's concussed in ER.
Tasty sounding soup, though. I agree about peeling the toms - there's nothing worse than getting a bit of tomato skin stuck in the back of your throat. Another thing my hapless sister did as a child.
Mya x

GoneBackSouth said...

Oh Pig, I am definitely going to make that soup. I must confess I'm not much of a cook, but I love tomato soup and you're right the tinned variety does do strange things to the throat. Sunday will be soup day - hoorah! Happy cooking!!! x

hampers said...

Tomatoes really are one of a kind. So healthy and usable not only in the aspect of cooking but also in healing. My mother told me before to put tomatoe paste on my burns to eased the pain and the swelling and it works. By the way, I added your recipe on my long list of "good find recipe". Looking forward to seeing other uses of tomatoes here.

dulwichmum said...

God, it has been so long since I blogged properly, and despite the fact that I have no kids with allergies, I still adore your blog. You really are a breath of fresh air. I love the recipe's I always do. You are making me hungry sweetie.

Best wishes,

DM x

PS. would you mind terribly changing me to a on your blog roll? Then I can click straight back to my blog - I am a lazy old hag...