The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

slow roast tomato soup with basil oil

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Regular readers of this blog will have come to realise by now that I regard the UK’s Brexit vote as an act of national self-harm.

That is also pretty much how I view the election of Donald Trump to the office of president by the voters in the United States of America.

Since his inauguration, climate change denier Trump has set about undoing much of the environmental protection that had been brought in under predecessor administrations.

He has, for example, started to dismantle the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by putting a climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, in charge, leading in turn to the marginalisation of scientific climate change experts and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

US government websites have had all mention of climate change removed from them, and “global warming” has even been removed from an official list of “Threats to US National Security”.

Just this week, Trump announced the overturning of a ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in US national wildlife refuges.

But the most headline-grabbing of his actions to date has been his announcement that the United States would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, threatening to fatally undermine international cooperation over greenhouse gas emissions.

The Paris climate change accord set its participants a target of restricting future global warming to two degrees Celsius. Two years on, without US buy-in, that target is now looking overly optimistic.

Former NASA scientist Dr James Hansen, regarded as the father of climate change awareness, had previously predicted that a rise of two degrees in global temperatures would be a “prescription for long-term disaster”. Anything above that would lead to drought across Europe, the desertification of central Asia and the Indian subcontinent and the loss of cities, towns and land to rising seas. These disasters would lead in turn to food shortages and starvation.

Some experts now rate the chances as just 1 in 20 that mankind will be able to limit future global warming temperature rises to 2 degrees celsius.

What we must understand is that planet Earth will continue to function without humankind. Our reckless, destructive and selfish behaviour is not so much threatening the future of this beautiful planet as propelling us as a species towards our own extinction.

Trump is not, of course, responsible for global warming, but he is responsible for spurning and undermining key opportunities at this critical point in time. His capriciousness, self-obsession and failure to grasp the big picture make him a perfect emblem for our times, and of the reasons why we got into this mess in the first place.

The extraordinary, hot, dry British summer this year may well be a sign of what is to come under climate change. It has certainly brought challenges, as well as some rewards in the garden. One of the latter for me has been a bumper crop of outdoor tomatoes.

I was advised by a wise gardening friend that as soon as your tomatoes begin to ripen you should water them sparingly: give them too much water and it will dilute the flavour.

This is useful advice when your tomatoes are in a greenhouse or polytunnel, but when they are open to the elements unpredictable things can happen.

So it was that a couple of weeks’ back the long stretch of glorious sunshine was finally interrupted by a burst of heavy rain. The result? Many of my tomatoes suddenly took in much more moisture and burst their skins.

That was how the idea for this soup came about, as a way to use up those burst-skin tomatoes. They may no longer have looked quite so beautiful but they still tasted gorgeous.

The long cooking process in this recipe helps to coax out the natural sweetness and flavour of the tomatoes, resulting in a beautifully balanced soup, the basil oil adding a final complementary flourish.

slow roast tomato soup with basil oil

1 kg organic tomatoes, various shapes and sizes
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 thyme sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 litre hot vegetable stock

for the basil oil
30 g fresh basil leaves
60 g extra virgin olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C (275°F, gas mark 1).

2. Halve the larger tomatoes and place them in a roasting dish. Smaller cherry-type tomatoes can go in whole. Add the garlic cloves and scatter over the sea salt, rosemary and thyme springs. Drizzle over the olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven for two hours. Check the tray once or twice during roasting, and give it a little shake to prevent the tomatoes sticking to the base.

3. While the tomatoes are roasting, make the basil oil. Have to hand a bowl full of ice-cold water. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the basil leaves and prod them into the water with a wooden spoon to immerse them. After 20 seconds, remove from the heat, strain through a sieve and plunge the leaves into the ice-cold water. This will arrest the cooking process. Strain again, then pat dry on kitchen paper. Place in a blender with the olive oil and process for 30 seconds or until fairly smooth. Set to one side.

4. Remove the tray of tomatoes from the oven. Pour in the hot stock and stir to combine. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes, continuing to stir, then remove from the heat and set to one side for 15 minutes to cool. Remove the woody stalks of thyme and rosemary, and fish out the garlic cloves. Squeeze the garlic, which will be soft and puree-like, back into the tray, discarding the skin.

5. Use a blender to process the soup until smooth. To serve, reheat gently over a low heat until on the edge of a simmer. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little basil oil.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: ,

15 replies

  1. According to a TV panel discussion here in Australia but days ago our temperatures have already risen one of the precious two degrees stated . . . we are staring the tragedy of human extinction in the face and the craziness of basically one man is allowed to continue in the United States . . . it is beyond all logic and comprehension . . . Oh, love the definite flavour of your tomato soup with its herbal overtones . . .unfortunately I have a few months to wait for our tomatoes . . .

  2. Thank you Eha. Trump is merely the (current) spearhead for the climate change deniers but they are a powerful lobby, with many vested interests, all very determined to cling to their profit-making activities whatever the longer term collateral damage.
    I read this week that your prime minister called Australia “a land of drought”, so I imagine the reality of climate change is becoming better understood in your country.
    Unfortunately, if we wait to convince everyone else about climate change before we agree on action to curb our excesses it will be too late. Steve

    • How true! Australia is into the worst drought we may have had in modern times with no end in sight . . . tragic for the farming community and pricewise for us. Oh most of us have known and believed in and understood climate change forever but – our PM Malcolm Turnbull is actually a rather centrist Liberal but owes his position to the very right of the party who deem coal God and renewables the devil. He will be ousted next year . . .but in betwixt and between the country is suffering . . .

  3. Steve, if you haven’t seen this hilarious mocking of Trump please click and watch this video:

  4. I love this post to. Living in America, I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly with you about everything. Politics and the environment and all. I don’t have children, so I don’t have that worry about leaving behind a better planet for them when I die come up but the worry about what we are doing to this world nags at me constantly. It’s truly frightening to see what’s going on at these national levels. On a cheerier note, your tomato soup and basil oil look absolutely delicious and you’ve inspired me to give this a try. I don’t grow tomatoes but there are tons of them at my local farmers market which I’m buying today and I’ll let you know how it goes. It is likely going to be tomorrow’s Sunday lunch treat.

  5. The difference between the two acts of self-harm is that here it is temporary (because PLEASE PLEASE tell me that he will not get elected to a second term) whereas Brexit, I fear will play out for far longer than 4 years. I do try to find the silver linings in situations but in both instances I am struggling and failing. Depressingly, the only soup I don’t eat is tomato. Bizarre really – I love tomatoes in every other guise but for some deep-seated reason I just don’t get on with it souped. Hey-ho … I got some marvellous beets from the tiny farm stand I frequent this morning and I have dill in the garden so I think some twist on borscht might occur. It is blinking boiling here so cold might just alleviate my over-heating system both physically and emotionally!

    • I worry that Trump will be re-elected. His core supporters seem undeterred by anything he does or says. It’s ironic that this billionaire businessman and reality TV personality has been able to convince so many American voters of his anti-establishment credentials. And as long as he remains in office we will continue to lose precious time to adddress the very real problem of global warming and its accompanying threats to our continued existence.

      • He may. My own view is that the solution lies not with damning his supporters to hell …. however tempting it is, it gets no-one anywhere – these are die hard and they will not listen to what we see as reason. As an example, I was called a communist the other day – the person concerned thought that my remark that I am a life long socialist must mean I am Marxist. The solution lies with the Democrats. My biggest concern is that whilst they continue to throw rocks and hurl insults they are not focussing on what is really needed (is in Britain too) …. finding a strong, articulate, charismatic and decent leader. I was a Feel The Bern girl in 2016 and still think he is the best bet for rallying the country. If they don’t get their act together and they continue to allow themselves to manipulated by Wall Street then I fear you may be right. If I buy an island and start a whole new community, are you in? X

      • Absolutely! x

  6. Don’t talk to me a drought. All New South Wales, a lot of Queensland and a few parts of Victoria are in the worst drought for decades – and we’re just about to move into Summer. They are shipping bales of hay from Tasmania because it is running out everywhere else.
    And don’t talk to me about Trump. Australia is s’posed to be one of his most reliable allies and he hasn’t got the decency to even appoint an ambassador.
    I could go on but I won’t – I’ve gotta make some tomato soup.

  7. We’ve certainly had our taste of global warming in Sweden this year as has most of Europe. As for the US (my) president, it’s a good time to be an American expat…

  8. I made the soup, using heirloom tomatoes from my local farmer’s market, and basil from my own garden. It was magnificent! The only thing I did differently was use chicken stock and added some heavy cream at the end. My basil oil ended up in green droplets atop my soup, so perhaps it wasn’t as thick as yours? But the flavor……oh my goodness it was delicious! A keeper for certain. Thanks for sharing!

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