Ladies and Gentleman, fire up your baking sheets. Here is my interpretation of Tim's Tomato Soup.
12 Roma tomatos, stemmed and halved lengthwise
2 large carrots, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 small-medium bulb fennel, thickly sliced lengthwise
(3.5 cups chicken stock - optional)
Note: This yields approximately 7.5 cups of soup if you go Rustic and 4 cups if you go Delicate, so you may want to double the recipe. You'll be glad for any leftovers.
Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F. Depending upon the size of your oven and baking sheets, brush one or two with olive oil and arrange vegtables cut-side-down. Brush the backs of the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Pop in the oven for one hour.
Beware the inevitable burst of steam when you open the oven - stand back. Carefully check the carrots for tenderness - they should be completely cooked through; if not, return to the oven for a further 15 minutes or so. Remove baking sheets and allow to cool.
There is a lot of liquid at this stage in the process, so once mine were cool enough to handle, I used a spatula to transfer the vegetables to a large pot before tipping in the liquid - less chance of losing any of those precious juices this way. Using a hand-held blender, purree until there are no visible solids. The fennel is quite fibrous, so check you blender blade lest it is being strangled by a twisted, ropey knot.
Decision point: are you aiming for rustic and hearty? Or delicate and almost frothy?
If I am making this for myself, I always opt for rustic, because I am just that kind of girl. But if the soup is intended for company, I opt for delicate.
Add chicken stock, season with sea salt and blend. Heat and serve with toasted cheddar or gruyere on thick slices of sourdough. Dunk with unselfconscious abandon.
Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve one, two, or three times, depending on how fastidious your are feeling. I always find this step messy and tedious, but it does produce a lovely - and entirely different - result. This is the extremely talented Tim originally presented it, and it is well worth the extra trouble if your soup is going to play an opening role in a luncheon or dinner party. Season with sea salt.
If you are feeling really decadent, the final addition of a dollop of double cream and a sprinkling of tiny chives would be a nice touch. Alternatively, paper thin slices of baguette toasted with parmesan or gruyere, floating on top or placed along side, would not go amiss.