Summer is drawing to a close and autumn is upon us, the Children have returned to school and college and our morning walk across Master Park is a teeny bit chilly but still full of glorious sunshine. I noticed this morning how the leaves have started to fall but also that the hedgerows are alive with blackberries, soon I will be dragging Hubby and Luca out into the countryside to collect blackberries for jam and sloes for gin and my lovely neighbour has promised to take me to the best spots for a bit of mushroom foraging. I just love foraging, which does make Hubby laugh.
My mind has turned to warm cosy evenings, hot chocolate and snuggling under eiderdowns, I am not sure if it is the excitement of the new house, but I am really looking forward to autumn and winter in this year.
The gardener is here today and he is starting to put the garden to bed for the winter, we were discussing how everything has slowed down and all the vibrant colours of the summer flowers have faded, but on the bright side, the apples are nearly ready, I am still cutting rhubarb, my raspberries have had a second wind and the greenhouse is bursting with gorgeous plump tomatoes.
This time of year always makes me think of soup, I think on a chilly autumn day, a lunch of a good homemade soup, with produce from your own garden is a little bit of heaven and as we have tomatoes coming thick and fast and if I can stop Luca pinching them from the greenhouse and eating them like apples (a guilty pleasure of mine also) we should be enjoying many bowls of tomato soup, passata and homemade ketchup in the coming weeks.
So this leads me to my recipe today, tomato and basil soup, which I made last night for Hubby and Jonny's lunch today at work and was lucky enough to have some left over for my lunch and even sent a jar up for my neighbour for her Hubby to take to work. I love cooking for people, it always makes me smile.
1kg ripe tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Small bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks
600ml chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190C and cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. Arrange, cut-side up, in a baking dish, drizzle with half the oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Bake for about an hour, until softened and beginning to char around the edges.
Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 7 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.
Use a blender to purée the soup, then stir in the vinegar and creme fraiche, and season to taste. Reheat gently, while you tear the basil leaves into pieces, then serve with these and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
NOTE: I have made this soup a couple of times now and the way I like it best is using vegetable stock and our lovely basil mint that grows in our herb garden, I added a few of the leaves as well as the stalks and I was a little heavy handed with the balsamic, it was just gorgeous.