Tomatensoep


The Netherlands is currently the world's largest exporter of tomatoes worldwide, ahead of Mexico and Spain. We have quite a history with tomatoes: at first deemed only a decorative fruit, the tomato was considered poisonous until they figured out that the tin plates on which they served them caused the toxins. It quickly moved from show-apple to love-apple, celebrating the presumed aphrodisiacal powers this fruit of the nightshade family might have, and has since 1900 featured in our diets in various formats, one of which is today's tomato soup. 

Unfortunately, our tomato soup has become one of those industrialized, run-of-the-mill soups that are available anywhere and everywhere. Tomato soup is standard on menus, is available from automated soup dispensers and is sold in large family-sized cans, but it's often not more than a gloopy, starchy red mass. No tomato proud of its heritage would want to end up in a can like that....so we're going to make our own!

Wintertime is a great time to put a bowl of steaming hot tomato soup on the table: the color and the flavor will bring back memories of summers past. But fresh tomatoes are hard to come by this time of year, or at least tomatoes that have great flavor, so my go-to are canned diced tomatoes. They have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes, and the flavor is hard to beat since the tomatoes are processed when they are at their ripest, and in such a fast fashion that vitamins and minerals are often preserved. 

If it's summertime when you're reading this, it's a fantastic time to revive tomato soup from its sordid industrialized image. Gardens are flooded with large, juicy, ripe, sun-kissed tomatoes all over, just plain begging to be used up for a homemade, honest, honorable tomato soup. In Holland, tomato soup is traditionally served with soepballetjes, mini meatballs, and a splash of heavy cream. The recipe below makes about four generous servings of soup, and about 20 soepballetjes.

This is a quick soup. For a more elaborate soup, look for Oma's Tomatensoep in the near future.

Dutch Tomato Soup
2 lbs/1 kg ripe tomatoes (use a variety for more complex flavor) or a 28 oz (794 grms) can of diced tomatoes*
1 beef or vegetable bouillon cube
4 cups/1 liter hot water for fresh tomatoes (2 cups/0.5 liter for canned)
1 small onion or shallot
1 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
8 oz ground beef
Salt
Pepper

Peel and chop the onion or shallot and sauté it in the butter. Cut the tomatoes up in small pieces, remove the seeds and, after the onions have become translucent and released its fragrance, add the (canned) tomatoes and simmer for the next ten minutes. Pour the hot water over the top, add the bouillon cube, the bay leaves and the fresh thyme, bring it up to a boil, then cover and turn down the flame to simmer for the next twenty minutes. In the meantime, season the ground beef with salt and pepper and knead it together for a minute or two, then roll into small marble-sized balls (0.3 oz/8 grms) and let them simmer in the soup. 

Remove the bay leaves and the stem sprigs, pull out the meat balls, and blend the soup smooth. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed, then add the meat balls back in. After serving, pour a tablespoon of evaporated milk, milk or sour cream to each and stir.




* I love the diced tomatoes with Italian herbs: perfect for a cold winter day!

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