I think charring vegetables has to be one of my favourite, simple kitchen tips. It’s ridonc easy to do and adds that smoky, barbecue flavour to dishes which I looooove. Seriously, I add sweet smoked paprika to anything and everything that I can (this has been bad when I’ve mistakenly used HOT paprika and made food mouth-burningly spicy).
The two main veg I’ve charred before have been bell peppers, which are an obvious one, for things like salads, frittata and focaccia. Secondly aubergine which slumps into meltingly soft and silky strands – at home we use this in a thai dish: stirred into stir-fried ground pork with lime dressing, fresh coriander and noodles. It’s also the main component in baba ganoush! But I could imagine chargrilled bell peppers or aubergine being excellent additions to other dips (smoky bell pepper hummus!? YUH).
While you can char grill veg on the bbq as the coals are dying down, you can also just whack them onto a gas hob or into the oven and get them all crisped up on there! It takes about 30 minutes and you can store any leftovers in a jar of oil in the fridge. Super good for planning meals ahead of time.
Here I decided to blend my chargrilled peppers along with some roasted tomatoes into a smoky sweet and sour soup. It’s a great alternative to tomato soup which, lets face it, while comforting and simple can be SO boring. Except for if you have a grilled cheese sandwich on the side…. Grilled cheese will always win :/
I used my Cuisinart soup maker which basically does all the work for you – it can cook and blend everything up as and when you need. (uhhh and you can also make really good hot chocolate in it which is never a bad thing, IMO).
While it may seems weird that I roasted the tomatoes with their stems attached and vine in the pan, it’s actually a flavour bonus! If you buy your tomatoes on the vine, give it a rinse then chuck it into that roasting tray and remove before blending the soup. (N.B. While tomato vine does contain a toxin called tomatine, it’s in very small quantities here. It won’t harm you at all so don’t worry). If you’ve just got loose ones don’t worry the soup will be just as stellar…
…especially becuase you’re gonna take that splendid bowl of vegetable-y goodness and put on some feta, chives and BACON. Crispy bacon beats croutons any day. Which reminds me of one last thing – don’t over-season this soup. The feta and bacon are major salt bringers so it’s better to have a slightly under-seasoned soup and save that job for the toppings.(PSA: soz for the wrinkly top.)
- 500 g (1 lb 1 oz) tomatoes (I used Jubilee)
- 3 rashers of bacon, , cut into lardons
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- black pepper, , ground
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 red onion, , peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp raw sugar
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
- 50 g feta, , crumbled
- chives, , chopped
- Preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F). Quarter the tomatoes (or halve if using cherry tomatoes) and place into a roasting tray. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle on some ground black pepper. Place into the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Meanwhile fry the bacon in a dry frying pan over a medium-low heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel, leaving behind as much of the bacon fat as possible (but don't throw the fat away).
- Place the bell peppers over a ring of a gas hob. Turn onto a high heat and leave to char over the flame, turning occasionally so they are blackened all over. Leave to sit for ten minutes in a sealed ziplock bag. Remove the peppers and pierce each one with a knife to let the steam out. Whilst holding a pepper under cold, running water rub the outer blackened layer off and remove the stem + seeds.
- Place the reserved bacon fat and the rest of the olive oil into the soup maker (or a large pot on the stove). Add the red onion and saute over a low heat until translucent. Add in the roasted tomatoes, chargrilled peppers, salt, vinegar and sugar. Pour in the vegetable stock and give it all a good stir (using the stir setting on the soup maker or using a wooden spoon). Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth using the soup maker (or, if making in a pot, use an immersion blender). Continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour into bowls and serve with the bacon, crumbled feta and chopped chives.
Thanks to Cuisinart for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.