Thursday, 17 March 2016

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Harissa Oil

The sun came out today. It brightened up my day.

If I ignore the cheeky bitter wind, my winter coat and bright yellow woolly scarf I can almost (almost) imagine that the warm rays on my face are from the evening Andalusian sun. I close my eyes, feel the heat and I'm back in the little garden of our white washed holiday home high up above the Sacramonte. Dusk is falling, heads pleasantly fuzzy from just one too many glasses of sherry. Giant, sweet red peppers are blistering in the embers of the barbecue, destined for lunchtime salads of salty anchovies, sun ripened tomatoes, crisp white onions, vibrant parsley and generous amounts of local olive oil.

Flavours, smells, feelings, colours that map out our year in family meals and holidays. Weeks under the blistering Spanish sun, long Easter weekends with family in France, lazy summer lunches in the little garden of our London home.

And so, with the first glimmers of springtime sunshine streaming through the windows, a little warmth creeping in, I crave the vibrant colours of my last holiday under the bright blue Malaga skies. This, the simplest of soups to make, yet visually stunning, bridges the gap between desire and reality. The essence of my summers in a comforting bowl of warm soup.

A perfect starter for a relaxed Easter Sunday lunch with family and friends, it can be made ahead of time and is great for babies and children too.


For the soup:

3 red bell peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 (400g) tins whole plum tomatoes
1 tsp low Marigold low salt vegetable bouillon (optional)

To serve:

Natural whole milk yogurt
1 tsp harissa (I used Belazu Rose Harissa) mixed with 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil


Begin by preparing the red peppers. The easiest way to do this is on the gas hob (if you have one) - keep the peppers whole, place them over the flame and keep turning the peppers until their skin is black and blistered. Put the whole peppers into a plastic bag and seal (or place in a bowl and cover with cling film). Leave until cool enough to handle and then remove all of the skin, which should peel away easily, core and seeds. (If you don't have a gas hob you can achieve the same result by putting the peppers - sliced in half lengthways - under a hot grill). Roughly chop the peppers and set aside.

Put a heavy based saucepan over a low to medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the chopped red onion. Cook gently, stirring often for 8-10 minutes until the onions are soft, but not coloured.

Add the chopped red peppers, plum tomatoes, vegetable bouillon (if using - I don't use stock or salt when cooking for babies under 12 months) and 400ml boiling water to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Put the pureed soup back in the saucepan, season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt (if using).

To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls and top each one with a desert spoonful of yogurt and a little harissa oil.

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