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Mediterranean style tomato soup
17 October 2019


Although tomatoes are around all year their natural season has come to an end so if you grow your own tomatoes or have a load stacked up and are fed up drinking gazpacho every day and eating tomato salads this is a wonderful Mediterranean alternative to a great Heinz classic from my childhood. However the quality of the tomato is key to this recipe, the soup will only be as good as the tomatoes are, so if you can find a local farmer or market they will be far better than the ones you will get in the supermarket which have already experienced refrigerated storerooms, they also tend to be much bigger when homegrown. However we want the tomatoes to be pretty ripe and not too hard, the riper they are the fuller the flavour. This recipe is a particular favourite of my daughter who is incapable of eating raw tomatoes, cooked or tomatoes in any which way or form unless it is in a warm soup, with no bits in it! I like to use large plum tomatoes, as they are full of flavour when ripe.

This recipe couldn’t get any more Mediterranean, all ingredients and herbs used to form the backbone of Mediterranean cooking so if you have tomatoes in your vegetable drawer which are going soft and aren’t up to scratch for the salads, don’t throw them away, this is what you do with them….




Mediterranean style Tomato Soup - 4 servings

1.25 kg. Ripe Tomatoes

1 Medium Yellow Onion

3 Garlic Cloves

1 tsp. Sea Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Dried Thyme and Rosemary

1 tsp. Paprika

1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley

1 Medium-sized carrot

1 Stick of celery

500ml Vegetable Stock (or chicken)

1 tbsp. Concentrated Tomato Paste

1 tbsp. Heavy Cream  (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Recommended: Oro Bailén “Reserva Familiar” - Picual)

Fresh Oregano & Basil for garnish


Firstly, prepare your vegetables. You need 1.25kg of ripe tomatoes. If the tomatoes are on their vines, pull them off and wash the tomatoes. Now cut each tomato into quarters and slice off any hard cores (they don't soften during cooking and you'd get hard bits in the soup at the end). Peel 1 medium onion and 1 carrot and chop them up into pieces. Chop 1 celery stick roughly the same size. Take 3 cloves of garlic but do not peel them, just chop of the stem root tip, the skin will prevent them from burning but they will still release their flavour. The garlic will go all soft and oozy inside the skin with a rich roasted flavour. Finely chop up 1 tbsp of fresh parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Spread all the ingredients on a rimmed non-stick baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (preferably Picual). I mentioned the brand “Oro de Bailén” as it has a wonderful fruity-green tomato flavour and aroma, which is ideal for this dish and is available in Carrefour. Sprinkle on the salt, ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, paprika and the chopped parsley. Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size and the onions are partially caramelised.

Remove and cool slightly. Warm the vegetable stock and stir in the tomato paste to dissolve. Now find the garlic cloves and remove their skin, they will just fall off in your hand. Add all of the ingredients from the roasting pan into the stock and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes, make sure every drip of that rich olive oil goes in too! Use a blender to puree the soup in the pan. The soup should be smooth, with some texture. If you don't like any texture at all, just run it through a fine sieve.

Return it back to the pot, and add some cream to taste, if you want it creamy that is, otherwise it is ready to eat. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with some thick toasted bread grilled with manchego cheese. garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano. Listo! Enjoy!





Like 1        Published at 17:29   Comments (0)

Barbecued Níscalos, it's that time of year
04 October 2019

After a classic summer and the recent heavy rainfalls, Spain's forests are giving birth to the autumn season of wild mushrooms or Níscalos as they are called here, and they are popping up all over the country.

Any pine forest around the country should have Níscalos, but at least two intense rainfalls within a maximum period of 40 days is necessary to bring them to the surface and get them growing. The wild mushrooms need around 21 days to grow to a reasonable size so you will need to keep an eye on the weather.

Mushrooms will normally pop up in open sunny areas if they have received abundant rainfall, but if they haven’t they will be more likely to appear in the shaded damp areas of the forests. However, I strongly recommend if you go out one day to collect these wild mushrooms, you do it with someone who understands what is what and which ones are still edible and which ones aren’t as there are poisonous Níscalos too which are similar in shape and colour. I also recommend you check for local restrictions, as there are regional bylaws sometimes which limit the amount, and when, you are allowed to collect mushrooms.

Mushroom picking can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I for one have been fortunate enough to go Níscalo  (called Rebollónes here in Valencia) picking in Valencia, Castellon and the Sierra of Madrid accompanied by experimented “mushroom hunters” as they humorously referred to themselves as “Cazadores de Setas”! There is a skill in identifying where these mushrooms hide, as they are not always visible to the eye at first and it is necessary to separate the loose pine needles and grass on the forest floor to discover them and then dig them out. If you have the chance to go I highly recommend it as it is a great day out to get some fresh air and at the end of the day you will have a wonderfully tasty reward.

The grill or the BBQ are the perfect pieces of equipment for cooking mushrooms. Because mushrooms contain a high percentage of water they remain moist under high, direct heat. As they lose moisture the flavour of the mushroom (and anything you've put on them) is intensified. Purists will tell you that you shouldn’t wash your mushrooms in water. Mushrooms should be gently brushed off any remaining dirt or debris, washing should be a last resort as it will affect the final flavour. If you do wash them make sure you dry them straight away with a kitchen towel and wash them quickly. A small paintbrush or even a toothbrush are ideal for cleaning them, but admittedly it can be time-consuming.

No matter where I have picked Níscalos I have pretty much always ended up eating them the same way. Grilled on the barbecue with a dressing made from fresh parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This is very easy, dice up a few garlic cloves making sure you remove the heart (root) of the garlic and then chop up some fresh parsley. Next. mix them in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, a fruity Picual is ideal. Blend it all together to make the dressing. You can also blend this in a blender if you don’t want any bits but I prefer it slightly more rustic. Place the mushrooms on the barbecue upside down and with a teaspoon just pour the dressing over the mushrooms, season with a little salt and cook until they are ready. There is no need to turn them over. Once ready just eat them and they are divine!



Another variant is to bake and grill them. Place all the mushrooms upside down on the baking tray sprinkle chopped parsley and chopped garlic over the mushrooms and then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of each mushroom. Finally drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top, season with a little salt and put them in a pre-heated oven (top and bottom) at around 200ºC for about 20-30 min (depending on the size of the mushrooms) until the breadcrumbs have gone golden and the mushrooms are cooked. Remove them and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the mushrooms and serve.  

If you can’t find them in the wild they will soon be available in the shops so there is no excuse for not trying this wonderful seasonal appetiser. Whichever way you prepare them I am sure you will get hooked on them.


Like 1        Published at 19:37   Comments (1)

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