Exclusive Recipe from Gill Meller's new book - Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower
ROAST TOMATO AND LENTIL SOUP
There is a point, just before summer falls into the arms of autumn, when the tomatoes are perfect for roasting. It doesn’t really matter if they’re over-ripe or a little under-ripe; all are equal before the intense, caramelising heat of the oven. Once the tomatoes are broken down, blistered and singing with sweetness, I push them through a sieve. The ensuing tomato sauce, a new order in holy, is what I use for the base of my lentil soup, which I like to spike gently with cumin, and for which I whisper a prayer of thanks to whomever, on eating.
ABOUT 1KG (2LB 4OZ) RIPE TOMATOES, HALVED
3 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 RED ONION, FINELY DICED
2 GARLIC CLOVES, THINLY SLICED
½ HOT RED CHILLI, DESEEDED AND CHOPPED
2 TSP CORIANDER SEEDS, COARSELY CRUSHED
2 TSP CUMIN SEEDS, COARSELY CRUSHED
150G (5½OZ) RED LENTILS
ABOUT 750ML (26FL OZ) VEGETABLE STOCK
SEA SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
NATURAL YOGHURT OR HERBY YOGHURTY GOAT’S CHEESE
CORIANDER LEAVES, WITH FLOWERS IF AVAILABLE
EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6.
Place the tomato halves cut sides upwards on a large baking tray. Trickle over half the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place the baking tray in the oven and roast the tomatoes for 45–60 minutes, or until they have collapsed and caramelised. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then, using the back of a ladle, rub the tomatoes through a sieve, extracting all that rich, thick sauce. Discard the skin and seeds that are left behind in the compost.
When you’re ready to make the soup, set a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. When it’s warm, add the onion, garlic and chilli and fry gently for a couple of minutes, until the onion is softened but not coloured. Add the crushed spices, season with some salt and pepper and cook for a further 6–8 minutes, or until the onion is really nice and soft and the spices are fragrant.
Lift half the onion mixture out of the pan and set aside for garnishing the soup later. Add the lentils to the pan, stir well, then add the roasted tomato sauce and the stock. Bring up to the simmer and cook gently, stirring regularly, until the lentils are done to your liking (about 25–30 minutes) and the soup has a nice, thick consistency. Season well with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls and spoon over the reserved spicy onion mixture, as well as a little yoghurt or my herby yoghurty goat’s cheese, if you wish. Tear over some fresh coriander leaves, and finish with some good olive oil.
Root, Sem, Leaf, Flower by Gill Meller (Quadrille) Photography: Andrew Montgomery