I am back in Portugal on holiday to see family and friends, and the country is like a dear old friend itself. The sun is everywehere, everyday, making the fruit and vegetables doubly fragrant. Dina, our old cleaning lady, gives us a bag full of tomatoes, courgettes and a cantaloupe, grown by her husband in his ‘quintal’, or vegetable garden. Each tomato is huge, grooved, quite different in size and shape from its brothers. They could never be sold, thanks to supermarkets’ restrictions on ‘ugly‘ food. What a waste! If you can get your hands on some homegrown tomatoes, they are perfect for this velvety smooth soup: they have very few pips and the flesh is full of flavour. Tomatoes from the shop or the market will do too, as long as they are really ripe. Don’t keep them in the fridge, but let them mature on a dish in a sunny place.
1.5 kg ripe tomatoes
soy sauce or salt, pepper and sugar to taste
a handful of basil leaves to garnish
Fill a sauce pan with water and bring to the boil. (It needs to be deep enough so that you can immerse the whole tomato.) Score each tomato with a sharp knife and plunge into the water one at a time. Allow to come back to the boil, then fish the tomato out and scald the next one. The skin will be puckered and easy to remove. Discard the skin.
Take out all the seeds and discard. Chop the flesh into chunks about an inch square.
Discard most of the scalding water, leaving about an inch in the bottom of the pan. Put in the tomato chunks and bring to the boil.
Partly cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Now pour the soup through a sieve. Push the pulp through the sieve using a ladle or wooden spoon.
Season to taste.
Serve hot, warm or cold, garnished with a few basil leaves – I used the tiny leaves of the Portuguese basil plant, but you can tear up a few normal basil leaves.