Last year at this time tomato soup would have been the last thing on my mind! Instead, I was preoccupied with my “baby” plants, berry picking and killing those stubborn Canadian Thistles…Seriously, how do you get rid of those things?!
Unfortunately, this year has been the complete opposite of the last. Winter is holding on tight, refusing to budge. Looking out the window, one would think it was December, not May! It’s been a long winter and I’m beginning to feel a little confused (and a whole lot irritated!)–unsure if I should be planning my gardens or digging out the Christmas decorations.
As you can probably imagine, I’ve been daydreaming a lot about the warmth of India. I’ve even gone so far as to tell Piyush I think we should move there. Sell the house, ship our stuff overseas and live happily in the tropics–with an air conditioner to keep us cool, of course. I’d grow my own black pepper plants, drink liters of chai every single day and we’d have our very own mango tree in the back garden.
Yes, I’ve seriously considered this.
Although I think it’s a wonderful idea, Piyush doesn’t quite agree. Oh well, If you can’t change it, you might as well embrace it, I suppose.
In India when it’s cold and rainy they look forward to chai, khichadi and onion bhajis to keep them warm and satisfied. In the United States–at least the part of the country I’m from–we turn to tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Making tomato soup at home, from scratch, really isn’t that hard. In fact, it’s relatively quick and easy. It can be on the table in less than 30 minutes, and the flavor is incredible! I promise…it’s way better than the soup most of us Americans grew up on. You know, the stuff in the cans with the red and white labels?
Anyway, because I love spice and flavor I decided to make an Indian version of tomato soup known as Tamatar Shorba. Tamatar shorba is basically regular tomato soup with a lightly spiced undertone. Typically there is no added milk or cream to the soup, so it is a thinner consistency than American-style tomato soup.
As I mentioned, there are spices added to the soup, but not enough to take away from the tomatoes–the real star of the dish! I tossed together a couple bay leaves, peppercorns, a single clove, a few shards of cinnamon sticks and a scant 1/2 tsp. of garam masala.
There is also a hint of nutmeg, which I freshly grated into the soup towards the end of the cooking process. Personally, I love nutmeg. I also feel like it is often the “secret” ingredient in a lot of Indian dishes. Just have to remember, a little goes a long way!
To make the soup, I started by boiling 4 cups of water in my dutch oven. In a separate pan, I melted some ghee (clarified butter–this can be replaced with oil if making vegan) and tipped in the whole spices. Once they had a little time to release their flavor into the ghee, I tossed in the onions and eventually the garlic.
Next, the peeled tomatoes joined the party! I tossed them in and brought everything to a boil before turning down the heat and letting the mixture simmer for a few minutes.
I chose to use my home-canned roma tomatoes, but if you don’t preserve your own you can definitely use fresh or even tinned tomatoes purchased from the supermarket.
When it’s not “tomato season,” I’d definitely choose the tinned tomatoes over the fresh. Your soup will end up with a much better tomato flavor–it’ll have a better color too, if you care about those kind of things.
Once the tomatoes have broken down and everything has had some time to simmer, I dumped the boiling water into the tomato mixture. I tossed in some ginger, sugar, salt and a tiny pinch of cayenne. Again, I let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes.
Then, into the blender it went. I poured everything–including the whole spices added at the beginning–into the blender. Before blending I tossed a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)–stems and leaves–in as well.
Because I like my soups a little on the creamy side, I added 1/4 cup of 2% milk to the mixture while blending. This step is completely unnecessary, it just depends on your own preference (obviously leave the milk out or substitute if making vegan). Traditionally, tamatar shorba would not have any added milk or cream…but as with everything else, “I do what I want.” 🙂
This soup was incredibly flavorful and warming. It brought a much needed moment of happiness to my gloomy winter/spring day.
Tamatar Shorba Recipe
(serves 4 as a main dish)
This recipe can easily be made vegan. Simply replace the ghee with the oil of your choice (I’d recommend peanut oil or coconut oil) and leave out the milk. If you also prefer your tomato soup on the creamy side, substitute with plain almond milk or plain soy milk.
The soup is wonderful served hot, but is equally delicious served cold. It also freezes beautifully. If you plan to freeze the shorba, do not add any milk. You can add this when you re-heat, if desired. The shorba should keep for at least 6 months if frozen properly.
- 2 tbsp. ghee (substitute oil, if making vegan)
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 3 small bay leaves
- 1 inch piece of cinnamon, broken
- 1 whole clove
- 1/2 tsp. ground garam masala
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
- 2 1/4 c. peeled roma (or plum) tomatoes
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1″ piece of ginger, grated (about 1.5 tbsp.)
- pinch of chili powder (I used cayenne), to taste
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/4 c. milk, optional (omit if making vegan–I used 2% in my version)
- 1 handful fresh coriander (cilantro)–leaves and stems
- 4 cups water
- salt, to taste
- fresh coriander (cilantro), ground black pepper and additional oil for garnish
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. In a different pan, melt the ghee and add the peppercorns, bay leaves, clove, cinnamon and garam masala. Fry the spices until they begin to release their aroma, being careful not to burn them. Add the onions and stir.
- Cook the onions about 5 minutes, until they begin to turn translucent Add the garlic and cook a minute more, until the garlic no longer smells raw. Tip in the tomatoes.
- Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down.
- Add the boiling water to the tomato mixture and stir in the grated ginger, nutmeg, sugar, chili powder and toss in 1 tsp. of salt. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes before transferring the mixture to a blender. Add the fresh coriander leaves and stems.
- Blend until the shorba is a very smooth consistancy. Add milk, if using, and blend to mix. If the shorba is still a little chunky, you may want to pass it through a fine sieve before finally transferring the shorba into a clean vessel. I used the same dutch oven in which I boiled the water. Check the soup’s seasoning and add extra salt, if necessary.
- Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves and freshly ground black pepper. If you want to get really fancy, you can drizzle a small amount of oil on the surface of the soup.
Tell me, how do you deal with uncooperative weather? What foods bring a little sunshine to your days, even when the sun refuses to come out from behind the clouds?