Lekker: Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup

Oh no...two soup recipes in a week? Shit, must be fall yo!

I whipped this baby up this weekend in between episodes of Mad Men (rewatching; goodness Betty Draper drives me just bananas--grow a backbone, lady!) as an alternative to traditional tomato soup. Don't get me wrong, tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of my favourite meals ever and sooo comforting on a rainy day. Not that it was raining here, but anyway--I'm interested in creative spins on that traditional American combo and this is totally in the running: a roasted tomato soup with lots of garlic and onion, and a big Thai kick from the garam masala spices and coconut milk. What to serve it with? When I do this next time, I'm grilling up a naan and paneer cheese sandwich. NOM!

Don't be intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients; they are all easy to find if you know where to look.

Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup
makes about 6 servings

What You Need
14-16 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
2 large yellow onions, sliced in thick chunks (I don't care how you wanna do this; quarters, chunks, rings, whatever--just make them similar in size to the tomatoes)
2 whole heads of garlic (you can take it down a notch to one head if you're really anti-garlic or something, but know that roasting them really mellows their flavour and brings out just a lovely carmelised sweetness)

olive oil or whatever oil you prefer for roasting
1 can coconut milk (reserve a couple of teaspoons for a pretty garnish)
~2 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth if you want to make this entirely vegetarian
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or 1 teaspoon of sriracha sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro, or a comparable amount of chopped fresh cilantro
about 8 stalks of fresh parsley, leaves chopped roughly (toss the stems in your compost pile)
salt and pepper, to taste

What You Do
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. The first thing you have to do is get the garlic in the oven because those take the longest to roast (about 45 minutes). If you've never roasted garlic before, it's really easy. Just rub off the excess papery skin, leaving the whole bulb intact. Slice off the top 1/3 of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Pour olive oil over top until the cloves are well coated, and wrap up in aluminum foil and throw in the oven. If that wasn't clear enough, here's a tutorial, except I don't bother with the baking tin; I just wrap them up into little foil bundles and have done with it.

2. While that's going, line a baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the halved tomatoes and onion chunks with enough oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out evenly on the baking sheet and add those to the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast for about 15-20 minutes more, or until the onions have gone golden brown (maybe a little blackened in some places, that's okay) and the tomatoes have broken down and are brown in spots. QUITE CONVENIENTLY, an episode of Mad Men runs about 48 minutes, so...I'm not *saying* my timing is perfect, but it kind of is. 

3. Everything roasted? Sweetness! In a large stockpot, throw in the tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, coconut milk (treat that can like a Shake Weight before you open it otherwise it'll be all separated and weird; nothing wrong with the Shake Weight, nothing at all), 1 cup of broth, tomato paste, garam masala and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes. Now, you'll need to either use an immersion blender to blend this all up, or work in careful batches in a blender until smooth.

4. Now that it's all blended you can add the cilantro and the parsley, and add the remaining cup of broth adjusting to the thickness that you like for your soups. I'm not gonna hunt you down if you like it a little thicker...baha. Heat for about another 10 minutes at a gentle simmer and serve with a pretty drizzle of coconut milk and a couple of leaves of fresh parsley. Look at you all fancy. If you like it spicier, add in a gorgeous drizzle of extra sriracha. (I find that the coconut milk adds such a rich, gorgeous creaminess that I want to contrast it with a decent kick.) Done! Next time, I think I'm going to pass the soup through a strainer quickly before serving to remove some of the fibrous leftovers from the tomatoes.

A couple of notes:

* Garam Masala is a spice mixture common in Indian and Southeast Asia. I had a difficult time finding it in the grocery store, but in TARGET, of all places, I found it in their Archer Farms line of spices. I imagine you could find it at an Asian or Indian foods market as well, and of course there's always the great wide Internet if you're really determined. 

* Coconut milk is much more common nowadays so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. I found the tin in the Asian foods section of my local supermarket, but it's also available in cartons. Just make sure you get an unflavoured kind and if you use a carton, you'll need about 1 1/2 cups' worth. 

* I mentioned I would serve it with a grilled naan and paneer sandwich. Naan is flat bread from the Middle East, so I guess I'm doing a bit of a fusion thing there, but it's easy to find--usually by the imported cheeses, by the deli, or by the bread in your store. Paneer is an Indian cheese that I simply can't find, though my search is not over. In the interim, I would use a fresh white cheese of any kind--queso fresco comes to mind. Hell, you could even do a grilled naan and FETA sandwich here that would be AWESOME! Just pick any mild, white, solid cheese and you're good to go.

* If you don't like Indian food, and don't like curry, or Thai or Indian flavours, and hate trying new things, and expanding your culinary palate--don't eat this. You'll be pissed that "I gave you this crappy recipe" and I'll be pissed that you're a dumbass.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for a martini with Don Draper. Hello, Don...
Posted on October 8, 2013 .