At last May is here, it’s my favourite time of the year. All the promises of summer – new opportunities, travel and the chance to spend quality time with far-flung friends – are tantalisingly close yet still delicious in their anticipation. Meanwhile, nature is popping up all over the place bringing new life and hope into our sorry northern hearts. It’s raining as I write this but the French doors are open, the birds are singing and the forecast for the next week is looking good. This quick and easy tomato soup is perfect for the cooler early days of spring when you yearn for vibrant fresh flavours in a warming bowl. The addition of fennel seeds and vermouth here provide a punchy kick that will beam you up to a bustling Provençal market lined with colourful stalls piled high with new season produce including the first strawberries, tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, asparagus, fiery radishes and clouds of sweet lettuce. Happy spring!
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tbsp tomato purée
80ml of dry white vermouth (optional)
x3 tins of good quality cherry tomatoes
30g fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp unrefined granulated sugar
Fresh chives, finely chopped for garnishing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
Place a large lidded pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, the prepared onions and a generous pinch of sea salt. Reduce the heat, partially cover and allow the onions to fry for around seven minutes until they are translucent. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and fry for a further three minutes. Add the tomato purée and stir around for a minute.
Then add the vermouth (if using) and continue to simmer until the alcohol has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, the parsley and the sugar. Bring back up to a slow bubble and allow to simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Blend, adding more water until you achieve your preferred consistency (I like mine chunky). Season to your taste.
Turn it out into a pretty bowl and garnish with the chives; I’ve also added a scattering of the Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc Olivas negras I bought in Mallorca last month. Serve with Nigel Slater’s super powered garlic bread or try it with a large garlicky crouton topped with creamy goat’s cheese. Pure indulgence!