Roast Tomato and Fennel Seed Soup
I have so enjoyed growing the Marmande tomatoes this year. A beautiful beefsteak variety that is very happy to grow outdoors here in Ireland. I sowed and planted two seedlings outside in May once the frost had passed with very little expectation- only I had no room left in the green house. A south facing wall providing lots of consistent warmth and I was pleasantly surprised by the bounty two plants provided- even into October.
I'll be honest, come autumn I can be all tomato, salad and cucumbered-out! Coming up with a different ways to enjoy garden produce is an on-going creative (and privileged!) quest. These final pickings of the tomatoes were crying out for a warming soup as the weather turned from golden to grey. Fennel lends itself beautifully to all things tomato (as with many other fruits and vegetables). You can substitute fennel seeds with fresh or dried thyme and/or marjoram if you prefer. This soup is a delicious one-tray roast added to a vegetable stock and blended. The quantity of olive oil, together with the acidity of the tomatoes, makes this soup wonderfully creamy once blended.
Olive oil is a rich source of mono-unsaturated fats which are super beneficial for heart health. plus potent offering of polyphenols, a large group of biochemically active plant compounds, olive oil has been shown to be gut-supportive, anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective. One thing I would encourage anyone is to purchase any cooking oil in glass bottles. When oils are extracted from their source they become highly vulnerable to oxidation from light and heat. If left in a plastic bottle, toxins from plastic can leach into the oil increasing our exposure to xenoestrogens- chemicals that are known to disrupt our hormonal system.
When tomatoes are cooked with olive oil the bio-availability of the heart protective carotenoid- Lycopene-is greatly increased. Add lots of garlic and your favourite herbs, and you offer the body a wonderfully nourishing and delicious dish to support your health. I grow lots of herbs in my garden and this is fennel herb that i use as a leafy herb during the summer and then let go to seed for winter harvesting. Deliciously aromatic with an aniseed flavour, fennel seed pairs well with lots of fruits and vegetables. I also enjoy it steeped to make a digestive-supporting tea.
To make this delicious vegan soup you'll need the following ingredients plus a food blender.
Makes 4 large portions; pre-heat oven to 140C
750g of your favourite tomatoes cut in half
1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
1 table spoon of fennel seed
4 table spoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves (peel on)
a few bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
800ml-1L vegetable stock
In a large baking tray arrange the tomatoes cut-side up with the onion quartered and garlic cloves. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt and all the fennel seeds. Place the bay leaves on some of the tomatoes.
In a low oven roast the tomatoes for about 1hour. Remove from the oven and take out the bay leaves and garlic. Pour the roasted vegetables and fennel seeds with all the roasting juices into a blender that tolerates hot food. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins into the blender with the tsp of sugar. Pour over the vegetable stock and blend until smooth- may take a few minutes. To serve, pour back into the pan to gently reheat and check for seasoning. This soup keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and is suitable fro freezing.
Hope you get to enjoy some of the last of the season's delicious produce and if you have even a small growing space, give tomato growing a go. Never before has it been more important to secure a sustainable food supply and although it may not sound like much, growing some of our own food can collectively partly move us in a better environmental direction, one tomato at a time.....