I love a good tomato soup, and quite often with the humble tomato, simplicity is key. So imagine my delight, yesterday evening, idly leafing through the iconic River Café Cookbook (Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers), and finding a recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro. I’d never heard of it, but fell in love instantly – garlic, salt, herbs, tomatoes and a little bread. Of course, the original calls for fresh tomatoes in late summer, and ‘open-textured white bread made with olive oil, such as Pugliese’, given that The River Café is famous for tremendously good Italian cooking (and was home to a fledgling Jamie Oliver, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro and many many other great chefs of our time). Alas, although my other half (also a River Café chef in her youth) is fond of the odd Pugliese, I’m not about to go and buy a loaf to tear up and fling into soup, nor recommend that you do on a budget cooking blog. I decided to see if I could make my own version, from my basics.
Firstly, who has a toddler or fussy teenager or even adult in their household that doesn’t eat their crusts? I used to battle with my four year old boy in the morning about the crusts on his toast, until I gave up – if he doesn’t like them, he doesn’t like them, and giving his toast a quick trim is easier than ten minutes of parrying – me insisting that he eats them, him nibbling and giving me looks out of the corner of his eye and grimacing and whining, oh it’s just not worth it, is it? So now I trim them off, and fling them in a bag in the freezer. I blitz them into breadcrumbs when I need a small amount of them, rather than waste a whole loaf of bread, but today I dug some of them out for this soup. Bread crust and tinned tomato soup, given a fancy Italian name. Stay with me, it’s utterly delicious…
Serves 2 at 32p each
2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p
a pinch of salt, <1p
4 tbsp oil, vegetable or sunflower, 8p (The River Café Cookbook uses olive oil, but it’s gone the way of the pugliese in this recipe, i.e. NOT HERE)
400g carton of tomatoes, 35p
1 stalk (2g inc stalk) fresh rosemary, 8p or 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
60g bread, crusts are best but any bread will do (approx 2 slices medium cut bread), 7p
First finely slice your garlic and add to a saucepan with the salt. Pour over the oil and turn the heat on very very gently – I do garlic then heat, because quite often I’m doing a gazillion things at once in my kitchen, and the oil gets too hot because I decide to quickly wash something up and the garlic goes in and burns and I have to start the whole thing again. It just needs a gentle soften here, so garlic, salt, oil, gentle heat. Burnt garlic stinks. In all kinds of ways.
After a minute, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add 250ml water and the herbs, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, until the soup thickens and concentrates. It might seem like a lot of water, but trust me, it needs it, and it’s going to have even more in a minute…
After 15 minutes, tear up your bread and fling it in. Add another 250ml water (if you’re sceptical, add it a little at a time, but the bread sucks a lot of water up as it swells from bland boring crusts to soft and soggy pieces of deliciousness). Bring it to the boil again, then cover it to retain as much heat as possible (a lid, a plate, some tin foil) and turn the heat off. Leave it to stand for as long as you can bear it – I managed half an hour before I dived back in, but it’s one of those that improves the longer it stands around doing its thing, hanging out on the hob, developing its flavours…
Warm through to serve. Depending on your tomatoes, it might be a little sharp (although it shouldn’t be after all that cooking and hanging around, but not all tomatoes are created equal. If that’s the case, just stir in a teaspoon of sugar as it warms through to adjust it). After me – nom nom nom nom nom nom nom…
*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I did my shopping this week, but things like carrots and onions are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this:
Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics tomatoes 35p/400g. Fresh rosemary 80p/20g. Mixed dried herbs 35p/14g. Giraffe bread £1/800g.
Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/msjackmonroe) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/msjackmonroe) and find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack
…and if you enjoy my recipes, you might like one of my books – I like to direct people to the Hive, as they deliver to your local independent book store, or your house. They’re available in other places too, but I think the Hive is just great: http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/