I started imagining this soup in the late winter, when good tomatoes and the time to cook seemed like a distant and impossible fantasy. I just scribbled out the basic idea and waited for August to come.
It was worth the wait. My mother and I made this soup from amazing local tomatoes grown by The Good Earth Farm on Gabriola Island and lovely peppers from the farming area that my mum grew up in, which is just across the Salish Sea from Gabriola on mainland of British Colombia.
I love smokey flavours. This soup gets a bit of smoke from blackened tomatoes and peppers. It gets some more from the smoked paprika. In my opinion, it is worth it to seek out smoked paprika for this dish (and for Paprika Chicken). It’s actually usually available in regular grocery stores. It’s just in a tin, rather than in the selection of alphabetized identical jars. Smoked salt would also be fabulous if you have it.
The almond meal gives the soup a bit of richness and creaminess (without cream) and the sherry works well with the Andalusian inspired flavours. You could use some other sort of booze like cognac or brandy and it would work just as well. As always, the adorable and expectant tabby cat is optional but highly recommended as the orange fur sets off the palate of the meal quite well.
*If you have a grill, you could blacken the peppers and the tomatoes that way instead of broiling and it would be awesome.
- 5 red, yellow or orange bell peppers
- 7 large ripe tomatoes
- A big glug Olive oil
- 1 Onion, chopped
- sea salt to taste (smoked sea salt is great here if you’ve got it)
- 3 large cloves Garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup Ground Almonds
- 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- A glug or two of Sherry
- Soup stock (preferably homemade) as needed (I used about a cup)
- *Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet under a hot broiler. Check them after 5 minutes to see if they have blackened. If not check them every 3 minutes and when they have turned black, flip them with tongs to blacken on the next side. Repeat this process to blacken them on a third side as well. They will be much easier to peel if they are evenly blackened on all sides. For photos of this process click here. When they are done, place the peppers in a bowl to cool off. Leave the broiler on.
- *Core the tomatoes and place them on the same baking sheet that you used for the peppers. Broil the tomatoes for five to six minutes, or until they’re blackened. Using a pair of tongs, flip them over and blacken them on the other side. While the tomatoes are blackening you can start the onions and garlic stewing.
- In a large soup pot start a big glug of olive oil heating on medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the onion and let it sweat with the lid on for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue frying, just until the onions begin to turn a pale gold (another 5 minutes or so). Add the almond meal and smoked paprika and continue to fry, stirring for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, blackened skins and any juices from the baking sheet included. Break the tomatoes up a bit to release the juices. Pour in a glug or two of sherry as well. Increase the heat to medium high and let the whole lot stew a bit while you deal with the roasted peppers.
- By now the peppers should be cool enough to handle. Working over the bowl to catch the juices, pull the core out of the peppers and remove their blackened skins. I just toss the cores and skins back into the bowl, along with any seeds that need to be shaken off. Throw each pepper into the pot as you finish working with it. You will end up with a bowl of skins, seeds and juices. Strain the contents of the bowl through a fine mesh sieve into the pot so that all of those juices make it into your soup.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender, food processor or blender. Add soup stock as needed to achieve the desired thickness. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.
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