Sunday, 7 February 2010

Hazel's Homegrown versus Heinz

I was brought up on Heinz cream of tomato soup. We didn't have it every weekend but nearly that often. Now the word "soup" in my head is next to a reference picture of that distinctive red and black label. My girls too are fairly unaware that other brands or even other flavours of soup exist.

I do of course make my own soup every now and then, which are undoubtedly tastier and healthier than Heinz tomato soup but somehow it still remains my default soup. Still, I have half a freezer full of homegrown tomatoes and it seems ridiculous in such circumstances to go out and buy a tin of tomato soup. So yesterday I thawed out 1 kg of homemade tomato puree. I had pureed them before freezing, which definitely takes up less freezer space and makes it a million times easier to use them now. I had a recipe too for tomato soup but this recipe used two tins of plum tomatoes and I knew I could not do a direct substitution with my homegrown tomatoes. No matter how good a summer we have in the UK it cannot compete with the sunshine of California or Italy and our tomatoes never develop the same depth of flavour. To compensate I planned to use passata and shop bought tomato puree as well.

Having fetched some sprigs of fresh thyme from the allotment and some garlic and onions from storage it was time to make the soup. As usual with soup, when it was nearly done I asked Steve to taste it for seasoning as it is usually him that eats my homemade soup. He has a broader idea of what "soup" means and is more flexible in his flavours and varieties. None the less, having sipped a spoonful of my soup he said, "Well, it isn't Heinz, is it!"

We fiddled around with the seasoning for a few minutes, trying to counteract the sharpness that our tomatoes have. Despite not tasting like Heinz, it seemed quite nice to me but Steve wasn't convinced. "It just tastes like pasta sauce to me," he said eventually. I spooned some into a small bowl and took it to our household's chief tomato fan - my youngest daughter. She'll eat any kind of tomato, sweet, sharp, under ripe or otherwise. She dipped her finger into it and declared "Yummy!". "Does it taste like soup or pasta sauce?" I asked, "Pasta sauce," she replied positively. So pasta sauce it is then. It's not how I would usually go about making a pasta sauce but the results were certainly tasty.

Tomato & Thyme Pasta Sauce

1 onion
1 carrot
2 garlic cloves
1000g homemade tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato puree from a tube
250ml passata
650ml chicken stock
2 sprigs of thyme
250ml apple juice
A splash of Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper

Peel and finely chop the onion, carrot and garlic. Heat some oil in the bottom of a stock pot and fry the onion and carrot for about 3 minutes then add one of the cloves of garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomato purees, passata, stock and thyme and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the second clove of garlic and return to the simmer for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool until safe enough to handle then blend the soup until smooth. Return to a clean pan and add the remaining ingredients and taste. Ladle into warmed jars or suitable containers for freezing. Serve hot with pasta or eat as a soup if preferred.

So now the question is, should I try to make tomato soup again or should I leave that to the professionals?

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