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What’s cooking today: Garlicky tomato and aubergine soup

What’s cooking today: Garlicky tomato and aubergine soup
Tony Jackman’s garlicky tomato and aubergine soup. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

The brinjal staring at me from the crisper was urging me to be creative. I had a mound of lovely ripe tomatoes too. Could they work together in a soup? This became an experimental challenge.

It makes sense. Tomatoes and brinjals are a perfect match, superbly complementary. But aubergines (let’s just interchange the names, we know they’re the same thing as what Americans call an eggplant) have to be cooked to get the full advantage of their flavour. So the key thing you need to do for this soup is to slice and fry the aubergines.

The other thing that both tomatoes and brinjals love is garlic. Lots of garlic. Add garlic to aubergines and tomatoes and suddenly they’re a marriage, they’re in harmony, best friends, a ménage à trois. So this had to be a very garlicky brinjal and tomato soup.

I’m happy to say that the result was utterly delicious, just what I was looking for. If you’re among the legions who look at a brinjal with suspicion,with the conviction that nothing good can come out of this odd, bitter vegetable, give them another chance. It’s a matter of how you deal with them to make their intrinsic flavour work in a dish.

But it was the texture of the cooked aubergines that added to the silky texture that ultimately made this soup. It had a wonderful texture once blended.

(Serves 4 as a meal, 6-8 as a starter)

Ingredients

4 large aubergines

6 large, very ripe tomatoes

1 red onion, chopped

1 head of garlic, whole

Garlic salt, as needed, for frying the brinjals

Olive oil, as needed

Fresh thyme sprigs

1.5 litres vegetable stock

Salt and plenty of pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 220℃. Place the whole tomatoes and whole head of garlic in an oven pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt lightly, and roast for about half an hour. Let it cool so you can handle them. (Or cook in an air fryer for 20 minutes at 200℃, lightly oiled.)

Meanwhile, cut the aubergines into slim slices and pan-fry on both sides in olive oil, seasoning with garlic salt. Set aside.

In a heavy soup pot, heat a little olive oil and add the chopped red onion. Add the roasted tomatoes, breaking them up by working them with the end of a wooden spoon. Add the brinjal slices to the pot and work them with the spoon too to break them up. It will be rough, but don’t worry, the blending will do the rest once it’s cooked.

Squeeze the soft garlic pulp out of each husk, into the soup.

Add the vegetable stock and thyme leaves, pulled from their stems.

Season with salt and then season very generously with pepper; this is a really peppery soup, for best results. Not quite as peppery as a pepper sauce for steak, but pretty peppery nevertheless. These are robust flavours.

Bring it to a boil and reduce to a steady simmer. Let it cook for about half an hour, covered for half of the cooking time and then uncovered.

Finally, blend using a handheld stick blender, or an alternative. Serve steaming bowls of it garnished with thyme, with some crusty bread such as my pull-apart air fryer rolls, which you can make while the soup is simmering. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

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