We spent the last two weeks living and working on a farm outside of Christchurch, New Zealand, which is located on the east coast of the South Island. The farming communities outside of Christchurch remind me of the midwestern United States, except that the breadth of what can be grown here is astonishing. As of March 1st, it is technically autumn here in the southern hemisphere and the garden was in full bloom: corn, potatoes, tomatoes, nectarines, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, plums, artichokes, lemons, and grapefruit. I could go on and on -- and the fall crops are still ripening (e.g., apples, squash, pumpkins, pears, quince).
Tomatoes are a favorite in our household but I could never produce enough in my garden to make a huge batch of soup or pasta sauce. On the farm, however, we picked tomatoes ever other day because there were so many. I made this soup on two occasions, the first time making a double batch (requiring 14 pounds of tomatoes) and the second time making a quadruple batch (28 pounds of tomatoes) so that Nette, who owns the farm, could preserve the soup for winter.
This tomato soup was universally liked by the broad audience on the farm: Bruce and Nette (Kiwis) who own the farm, a French family of four (including two teenagers), a German woman, an Austrian woman, and Rob and Blythe. I felt a lot of pressure cooking a new recipe for people I'd never met before, but this one is a winner (I'm certain one pound of butter helps things immensely). This soup is flavorful, retains a nice texture despite being pureed, and is quite easy to make (especially if you use canned tomatoes and don't need to dice 7 pounds of tomatoes by hand). It's not winter here yet, but it is winter for most of my readers - this is perfect for a cozy day at home when it's chilly outside and you've just come in from sledding, a snowball fight, or skiing. To use a word I'm reading about right now, it's very hygge!
I've noted below that the half and half or milk is optional in this recipe. I've made this both with half and half and without any added dairy and it was equally as delicious both times. It certainly will be creamier with the milk added, but you don't sacrifice any flavor by omitting the added dairy.
Adapted slightly from NYT Cooking
Yield = 8 servings
Time = 1 hour
- ½ pound butter
- 1 pound onions about 3 medium, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes or 7 pounds of diced fresh tomatoes
- 1 ¼ cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- ¾ cup half-and-half or whole milk (optional)
1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
2. Add flour and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and pale gold, about 3 minutes; do not allow to brown.
3. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, chicken broth, sugar, salt, celery salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium until the liquid bubbles, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot frequently. If you are using fresh tomatoes, you should simmer the soup for another 10-15 minutes to ensure the tomatoes have broken up and released enough of their juice.
4. Stir in half-and-half if you choose to use it. Remove from heat and purée using a hand blender, or allow to cool until no longer steaming and purée in batches in a stand blender. Return to medium heat just until heated through. Serve hot.