Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tomato Soup (Vegan)

Soups are great supper items.

Although most people here in North America are aware of how skewed we are with our meal order, few people actually bother to change that.  It is commonly known that we typically eat our largest meal at the end of the day.  Which isn't so great for our body's metabolism.  Most people know that the largest meal should be the first meal of the day, so that your metaphoric 'oven' has fuel for the day.  That same analogy works to explain why it is not good to eat a large meal too soon before sleeping, as your "oven" will shut off or at least slow down while still having food in there.  Not a perfect analogy, but the bottom line is that we often pay little heed to our metabolism's wants.

It is hard serving up a heavy breakfast and a light supper all the time, because weekdays are structured so rigidly in this society, that we have no time for extravagant breakfasts or lunches, and suppers are usually the only meal we can really fully control.

As a result, our society is positively rife with glossy solutions all promising to be "quick" and "healthy", for breakfast and lunch.  I mean, the person who invented instant oatmeal (don't get me started on how much worse for you instant oatmeal is than regular oats... that's for another day) is an evil genius, cackling all the way to the bank.  I wonder if Quaker oats really originated with Quakers?  :)

By that same token, because we feel we can control suppers, at least, we'll often make that a feast.  Everyone here does it - just go out to any restaurant at all, and look at the difference in "weight" between lunch and dinner menus.

It sucks, but there it is.

So, being the cook in our family, it is regularly incumbent upon me to decide what our last meal of the day will be.  Often I succumb to the same desire as everyone else in North America, and make supper a larger meal than it really should be.  After all, supper dishes are where the money is.  Weekends are a little better, because I can make a feast out of breakfast and lunch instead, and often do.  But weekdays are another matter...

In an effort to help with end-of-day metabolism petering, I try to lighten our suppers as often as I can.

Enter soup as entree.

Soups fill you up initially, helping to provide satiation, but are also very easily digested, so they don't really stay in the stomach for very long.  It also helps that they are also usually heavily cooked, which may not be super for retaining nutrients, but it does significantly help with digestion.

Anyway, commercial and processed soups are not very good for you.  I tend to shy away from most things in can or package form anyway, but soups are notorious for being bad.  So, making your own seems logical.

I don't make my own soups very often.  And that makes me sad.

Whenever we make a whole roast of something, we'll often save the remains (carcass, giblets, bones etc.) to boil down and make some stock.  Stock is great to have on hand, because it freezes well, and can be used to make soups, stews, gravies, sauces, even just as a flavouring for cooked rice or grains.  So, we do regularly have a bunch of jars of stock in the freezer, but admittedly we don't use them as often as we should.

I buy really good organic bouillon.  It is a priority to me to make sure that this is low in sodium, and as natural as possible.  There are some good brands out there.  I've even used 'beef' and 'chicken' bouillon that has no animal products in it!  I'm not too sure how they manage that, but whatever...

So, for an average meal, I'll just reach for those... and the beautiful jars of stock get left in the freezer...

When I make homemade soup, however, they often get put to use.

Although... not this time.

Yesterday I made some homemade tomato soup.  A delicious version of tomato soup includes using chicken or beef stock as the base, but for this one, I wanted to keep it non-fat and healthy.  So I used vegetable broth.  I buy a pretty pretentious organic vegetable broth which is very natural, very healthy, and pretty tasty. 

You can enlarge these images if you're interested. 

I typically won't crack a big one like this unless I'm making something large, but this soup was going to be about 4 or 5 servings, so I didn't mind using the whole thing.

Now... whole fresh tomatoes vs. canned tomatoes.  <sigh>  There are pros and cons for both, believe it or not.  I know I just said that I don't prefer many things 'canned' but sometimes there are good reasons for it.  I'll leave you to do your own independent research on the two, but for me, yesterday making this soup, there were a couple factors in my choosing a can of tomato paste.  Firstly, volume.  In order to get the amount of tomato in one large can of paste, I'd need to buy an insane amount of fresh tomatoes.  Secondly, tomato paste isn't really all that terrible for you.  Just look at the ingredients!  Seriously - do it next time you're in the grocer's!  It's just one ingredient: tomatoes.  That's pretty awesome, and it makes me feel OK about consuming that.  If you can do organic tomato paste, than that's all the better (more lycopene).  Thirdly, convenience - I didn't want any seeds, nor an excess of acidic liquid in the soup, so it would have added at least an hour to my process to use fresh tomatoes.

I like fresh tomato sauces, and soups, and I do make them (especially when they're in season), but I'd be lying if tomato paste wasn't the single most-represented canned good in my pantry.  My cupboards feel naked and barren when I don't have at least 3 or 4 cans of tomato paste of varying sizes.  I used to do tomato "sauce" , but then I realized that you can just make that by adding your own water to the paste.  Seriously - do that next time if you haven't already!  Tomato paste can emulsify a fair bit of water before it becomes over saturated and runny... and whenever I make any tomato sauce (which is at least once a week) I will invariably use a can of tomato paste.

So there it is.

With that out of the way, this recipe is actually really simple.  There is a couple of complicated steps in there in order to achieve proper texture, but in terms of its composition, this soup is really simple: tomatoes, organic vegetable broth, green onion, white onion, garlic, and spices (basil, bay, green peppercorns, and salt.)

Click to Enlarge
I chopped loosely, some green onion, white onion, and garlic, put that in a blender with about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth (for lubrication).  

Click to Enlarge
This doesn't quite achieve the consistency we need for soup, yet.  So we dump this into a saucepan with another 1/2 cup of broth, and saute it for quite a while (about 20 mins).  

Click to Enlarge
Basically we're softening the hell out of those veggies.  Because, we're next going to puree this up with an immersion blender.  It gets a little complicated here, but bear with me.  There's too much liquid to puree all this at once, so we're going to successively strain the veggies with a very fine sieve (I have a very fine sieve which is practically like cheese cloth it doesn't let much through).  The strained liquid can go right into the pot, but the solid matter goes into a tall but narrow vessel.  After a few of these straining and dumpings, you should have all the veggies in the cup, and all the broth strained in the pot.  Once you puree the heck out of those really softened root vegetables, you can scrape that into the pot as well.

Click to Enlarge
It takes an extra bit of time, but it is worth it in order to get a smooth consistency to what is arguably, a very textural dish.  Because I'm a miser when it comes to flavour, I like to 'clean' or deglaze my implements, so in this case the saucepan and the immersion blender and cup thingy.  So, I poured another 1/2 cup or so of broth into both, and scraped them diligently with a wire whisk.  Then that goes in the pot as well, and I feel better about not having 'left behind' any good stuff.

Click to Enlarge
At this point, all that remains is to add the tomato paste and the spices.  I scraped out the paste with a spatula and then cleaned (see above) it out with some more broth and a whisk to make sure I got all the tomato out.

The bay leaves go in whole, of course, and count how many you put in so you can make sure you get them all later.  However the basil, and salt and green peppercorns got milled finely in my mortar and pestle.
Once all that is together, and stirred well, you can either simmer on your stove top for at least 30-40 mins, or just throw it in a slow-cooker for the afternoon, which is what I did.

Click to Enlarge
This only really needs about 20-30 minutes to be ready, depending on the cooking heat, but the longer you let it simmer, the more uniform it will be.  I left it simmering in the slow-cooker for about 4 hours.  When it came out it looked like this:

Click to Enlarge
That would be ready to go if this was an appetizer.  However, because we were eating this as an entree, I decided to throw in a couple of old, stale, bread heels I had in the fridge.  (An interesting aside: I never throw away a heel of bread, because you can use it so many things, from bread crumbs, to homemade croutons).  So, these are the final products:

Personally, I think these look gorgeous, so click on them to enlarge them to full size and revel in their resplendent glory.  REVEL!!!


  1. I love anything tomato .....especially tomato soup. I usually think of cream of tomato soup so your non-milk version is a nice change and wow, what a beautiful color!!!!

  2. This soup was super rich, so you could just stir in some milk or cream after the fact, and it would be absolutely delicious. No longer vegan, but whatever.