Why Tomato Soup
Ever since I can remember I have always loved tomato soup. Whenever I have tomato soup I somehow feel better. As a small child I can remember being in Europe during the cold, raining winters and often having tomato soup. Yet I can also remember asking my mum to make me tomato soup during warmer weather too.
I think tomatoes are a vegetable (or fruit) that are perfectly balanced. Their acidic properties are often used to bring out other flavours. Think of sliced tomatoes with basil, fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil and salt. How fragrant does the basil become, or creamy the mozzarella, or sweet the tomatoes? Or even think of salt and pepper on a slice of tomato, just the perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness and pepperiness.
Tomato soup accordingly, brings out my love for tomatoes; the sweetness, the freshness and better yet comfort food in a bowl.
I have realised that it is my mum who always made this soup for me, so I asked her a couple of weeks ago for the recipe. She was more than happy to make it for me, and it was while she was making it that she told me it was my Oma’s (what I call my grandmother in Dutch) recipe originally, and that this is why i remember having it in Europe all the time.
My Oma was never much a cook or food enthusiast; she cooked because food needed to be on the table. This recipe probably only ever got made because she had tomatoes that needed to be used.
What I love so much about her tomato soup is that it is just that, tomatoes. There are not a lot of other added ingredients such as carrots, celery, or tomato paste that so many other recipes call for. Leaving the tomatoes to do their magic.
One important thing about this recipe, is that you need very very ripe tomatoes. This way the best flavour is created. However if you can’t wait for your tomatoes to over ripen, or if you have made it and feel it is missing that little something, feel free to add at most a tablespoon of tomato paste. As I am sure that the tomatoes we have today unfortunately will never taste as pure as the ones my Oma would have used.
20 ripe tomatoes
2 red onions, roughly chopped
2 brown onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced
500ml chicken stock
300g veal mince
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
1tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic. Turn the heat down and continue to cook until the onions are translucent and just starting caramelising. When they reach this point, add the tomatoes and stock.
Turn the heat down to a low simmer, and cook for up to a good hour. You want the tomatoes and onions to be mushy.
While the soup is simmering soak the rice in cold water.
Take the soup off the heat and pour it through a sieve. You may need to put the soup through in 2 -3 batches. Continue to push the tomato puree through the sieve with a wooden spoon until only skin and seeds remain. This can start to seem tedious but well worth the effort, as this pulp contains the most flavour and will also thickens the soup slightly.
Return the soup to a clean saucepan, and check for seasoning. If needs be add a little tomato paste. After seasoning turn the heat on medium. Drain the rice and add to the soup. Let the soup simmer for 10-20 minutes until the rice is just cooked. The rice can be slightly under as it will continue to absorb liquid and cook further.
For the meatballs; in a large bowl add the egg, breadcrumbs and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix the mince thoroughly until all is combined. If the mix seems a little wet add a little more breadcrumbs, but not too much. You want these meatballs to be as they say MEATballs, not dumplings.
Roll the meat into balls around 10-cent in size. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil. When the water is just balling drop 6-10 balls into the water and let them poach until the water comes back to a boil. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the tomato soup. Continue until all meatballs are cooked and added to the soup. Serve with a slice of crusty bread.