As soon as I feel the slightest indication of rain or cooler, wetter weather moving in over our sun-bleached plains and golden crisp grass I insist on getting into comfort food cooking. I think I might have thrived somewhere that experiences four seasons. We get about two and a half here in Brisbane: Summer, not quite summer, and wint-eh (like winter but not quite as cold). On those days that there is a chill in the air, or the storm clouds start gathering on the horizon I take full advantage of the drop in temperature to make something that is only suitable when you can comfortably hold your face over a steaming bowl of something long enough to enjoy eating it.
Last week we had such an evening. I drove home beneath threatening skies with a hopeful thrum for rain beating in my heart. When I opened the door Dad was cooking something tomato-filled, spicy and hearty for himself and Mum – ‘Pork Creole’ he has since named it (I need to enlist his help with recipe names clearly).
It seems Dad and I had the same idea. Something hearty and tomato-y was needed on such an evening. I pulled out the soup pot and started chopping, simmering, and taste testing.
I have made a tomato soup before. Something light and perfect for a summer night. This is heartier, richer, deeper and more satisfying. It has weight and heft from the lentils and potato, which also make it slightly creamy. It’s full of herbs both dried and fresh, and at the end you add a dollop of your favourite collection of antipasto things to give it a rich, salty, briny finish.
Perhaps one of the most perfect things about this soup is that you can make it in the dead of winter, with tinned-at-their-peak tomatoes, and recapture that late summer feeling all year long.
Quick Creamy Tomato Soup (vegan, gluten free)
Note: I used a pre-made Italian herbs paste here because I have it on hand all the time and it’s a great way to supplement the herbs that come out of my garden. And it makes dinners quick!
My antipasto mix was from the supermarket deli and contained my favourites: semi dried tomatoes, green and black olives, and feta. Use your favourite, or simply top with a generous spoonful of grated cheese.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 medium washed potato
- 1 medium tomato
- 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup uncooked red lentils
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 3 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs paste
- 2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¾ cup your favourite antipasto mix, for finishing
- Peel and dice onion. Dice carrot, potato, and tomato.
- Heat oil in a medium size pot (I used a 4L soup pot) over medium heat.
- Add diced onion and carrot and sauté until onion is transparent. Stir in potato and tomato. Cook for about 4 minutes with the lid of the pot on.
- To the pot add peeled tomatoes, red lentils, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and dried thyme. Stir until well incorporated.
- Leave to simmer on a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils and potato have broken down.
- Add Italian herbs, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and mix well.
- Remove from heat, and using a stick blender (bar mix thingy) blend soup until creamy. Be careful, the soup will be very hot!
- Ladle into bowls and top with scoops of antipasto.
- Serve with bread or, as I did, with crackers and a slice of sharp cheddar.
This yields spectacular leftovers, and only gets better after a day or two in the fridge. Perfect for winter work lunches.
Tell me, dear reader, do you dive straight into the comfort foods as soon as the weather turns? I know some of my northern hemisphere friends are probably ready to send winter our way by now – what have you guys been cooking to keep warm?