Roasted Tomato Soup

Inspiration can strike anywhere, perhaps inspiration is too strong a word….ideas, maybe? IKEA is a strange place to be hit with the yearning for a tomato soup, especially in winter when no one really gets the freshest of tomatoes. But a black bowl was inspiring enough to rummage the fridge in order to whip up a batch of this fantastic soup that keeps for a month in the freezer, probably even more but we always finish it before that. The sweet, rich flavor of this soup comes from slow roasting tomatoes into submission, at a steady 400F for 40 mins, then adding in a can of whole peeled roma tomatoes, stock, garlic and chilli flakes to give it that extra kick. Toast some lovely croutons and its the meal alternate to curling up on a chair with a hot cup of coffee.

Roasted Tomato Soup 1

 

Roasted Tomato Soup 2

 

Roasted Tomato Soup 3

 

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

6-8 Tomatoes (large)

1 can peeled whole roma tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp red chili flakes

1 large red or yellow onion

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the tomatoes in halves, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40 mins.

In a stock pot, add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes. Add the chopped onion and sautee till they are soft and about to change color. Add the can of roma tomatoes and break up the tomatoes(otherwise they do tend to burst and splatter).  Add the roasted tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Blend and serve hot or cold.

Please do not reprint or reuse anything on this blog without the author’s explicit written permission.

Roasted Tomato Soup

A Paradoxical Sunrise

4.30 am is an unearthly hour to be awake, but in the profession I choose to be in, its the time one wakes up, puts on their shoes and heads out into the cold, to catch the preternatural phenomenon called dawn and sunrise. Those minutes just after the darkest hour, when first light begins to break through, when dark clouds part to colors that explode until they calm down to a brilliant sky blue, those are the minutes I have been craving to encounter. Winter sunrises after a storm are brilliant that way, so long as one can shield themselves from dipping temperatures and whipping wind. But luck is as Seneca says, “…. is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So I prepared, found the beach I wanted to be at to capture dawn and its kin -sunrise, dressed myself in layers; up to the point of looking like a crab with just two eyes sticking out, studied tide charts and made sure I was between tides, chose a day that was to be sunny just after a snow storm, charged my camera, cleaned out all my equipment ahead of time and even went to bed early on a saturday night.  So as my favorite author said in ‘Old Man and the Sea’ – “… It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” 

I was ready! I had prepared and I was about 90% sure the opportunity was right and prime, and boy! was I right!! I could articulate in words that victorious feeling of being right, but pictures sometimes do say a million words, so this time – I will just let them do the talking.

Spring Lake 1

Spring lake 2

Spring Lake 3

These were shot at Spring Lake, New Jersey – a shore town that am increasingly fond of and can’t wait to go back to. Sometimes, all it takes is the magic of nature to make us feel tiny, not insignificant, but tiny. There are wondrous things happening around us all the time, and we miss it all in the pursuit of so called happiness. This is a free show that happens everywhere, everyday, why not catch one? Its paradoxical when you step out in freezing temperatures to witness something so blissfully warm.

Now on to technicalities – I used two ND Grad filters stacked, since I don’t own an ND filter as yet and I broke my polarizer. The only adjustment done in photoshop was some contrast and a tiny bit of color adjustment(not change, just saturation!). All pictures are copyright of Shruthi V/Photopportunist.  DO NOT reprint/reuse in any form, without the authors explicit written permission.  If you are interested in prints leave me a message here or on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com.

A Paradoxical Sunrise

Of Whims, fancies and hunger

Fresh from an exhausting week, leading up to a moderately successful exhibition of photography, I am engulfed with a craving for the Far East. Perhaps it has something to do with my itch to scratch off the cabin fever that winter has gifted us with. It has been a long, harsh winter and it’s been below freezing since October of last year. But the groundhogs have promised us an early spring and it does seem just suitably far away. For now the windows outside are still frosted up, snow on the ground and my stomach would like nothing better than a spicy far eastern hug. From satisfying chilli fish to beef rendang, my mind in conjecture with my stomach, which so whole heartedly seems to be taking over every thought right now, is conjuring up steaming bowls of Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and ,absurdly tangential enough, Korean food. It is such a yearning that I had to run out in 4 layers of clothes to get a bottle of gochuchung, a good half a foot of galangal and a bunch of lemon grass. I blame multiple viewings of Kimchi Chronicles and Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, because it would be sacrilege to just blame hunger for such monstrous hankerings? Let me for one moment wander away from this and plug Rick Stein’s programs – he is a seafood crazy chef from Padstow, England and has these shows on BBC UK, you can watch his programs on youtube though. If you are a foodie or a food writer of any caliber, watch his stuff, I don’t think anyone quite describes or articulates about food quite as well as he does, in this modern era of texting. He has a sort of transcendent way of making travel and food synonymous with the exploration of new cultures.

I digress, as I walk the aisles of a local H-Mart, the only recurring thought is a Beef Rendang lunch, made from scratch. So here I go this morning, toasting coconut or rather making kerisik and grinding together shallots, chillies, galangal, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to concoct this spicy and fragrant paste that the beef will slow cook in, along with a can of coconut milk, until the beef has drunk in every last drop of the heavenly gravy and is fork tender. I wish photographs had a way of conveying smells, it’s a sensory explosion that has gratification etched into it. There are certain smells in cooking that are deeply arousing and I don’t mean that in a sexual connotation. If you are like me an overwhelming joy can envelope you, at the smell of garlic and onions hitting hot olive oil or the smell of a slow cooked rendang, wafting slowly through the air in a gentle dance of seduction. There is a reason why warm, freshly baked cookies are made by realtors when they want to sell a house, the sense of smell is exceedingly powerful in eliciting an emotional response to things we see and hear.

For those curious souls who want to replicate this, there is a caveat – unless you like the strong taste of toasted coconuts this is not a dish you must attempt. I come from a country and region, where it is consumed atleast once a day, so its a taste that is reminiscent of my childhood. Also this is my interpretation of something that sorely lacks one of its key ingredients – Kaffir Lime leaves….I couldn’t find these at the asian stores close by and I didn’t want to risk the chance of frost bite just for a few leaves! Besides I had lemongrass and galangal – two things that are supremely versatile, exceedingly effluvious and generously divine. These two, have an irrevocable place in the spice cabinets of South east asians everywhere.

Without much more ado, read, look, weep and enjoy! Today’s whims, fancies and hunger have all been pleasingly allayed!

Ingredients

Spice mix

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

500 gms beef chuck or cuts used for stews

3 cloves

3 black cardamoms

2 star anise

2 inch stick cinnamon

3/4 cup toasted coconut (or kirisik is toasted to golden brown)

1 cup water

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Spice Paste

4 large shallots

12 dried red chillies soaked in water

4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece of ginger

1 inch piece of galangal

3 stalks of lemongrass, white part only

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender until its fine, use some of the water the chillies are soaked in, if necessary.

Heat oil in a dutch oven, add the cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom. Add the spice paste and fry until the raw smell of onions dissipates.

Add the turmeric and coriander powders and sautee for another 2 mins. Add the beef, the coconut milk, water and sugar. Cook for about 30-40 mins until the beef is half to 3/4 way done. Add salt to taste, cover the pot and allow to simmer on medium heat for about an hour to hour and a half, until the gravy has dwindled down to less than half. Check for seasonings and serve hot with rice.

On a side note, I wish I could change my camera with immediate effect and get some new lenses to replace the broken ones….feel like I am missing a couple of limbs with a broken camera and lenses. Please do not reproduce or reprint these pictures or writing in any form without the author’s permission.

 

Of Whims, fancies and hunger