Ok, we are heading out of soup season but for me, the slightest hint of cool weather and I am back into it.  I’ve made this Roast Fennel & Tomato soup on two occasions now and I swear on my life, it does not get any easier than this.  It is also a sensational way to use up an abundance of fresh tomatoes and roasting them absolutely intensifies their flavour on a major scale.  With the addition of sweet roasted fennel and nutty roasted garlic, this silky soup had us all groaning with sheer delight, on both occasions so I just knew it had to be shared.  A dollop of homemade basil pesto completed this absolute triumph.  Serve with crusty sourdough rolls for a starter or main of epic proportions……

Prep time:  15 minutes

Cooking time:  1 hour

Medium Budget:

Serves 6 (the leftovers are banging the next day)

For the Roast Tomato & Fennel Soup:

2kg of ripe tomatoes, quartered

1 large fennel bulb, roughly sliced

1  whole bulb of garlic, split apart but skins left intact

12 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and stalks discarded

1/2 a cup of extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt & Cracked Pepper

1 large brown onion, diced

2 x 400gm tins of tomatoes

1 litre of low sodium chicken stock

2 tbs of tomato paste

1-2 tsp of sugar to taste

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts for garnish

Baby herbs for garnish (optional)

An extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (as a garnish)

For the Basil Pesto:

1 bunch of fresh basil, leaves removed

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

2 tbs of toasted pine nuts (optional)

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil

A squeeze of lemon juice

Sea salt and cracked pepper

To make the Roast Tomato & Fennel Soup, preheat the oven to 180°C.  Line a large baking tray (I use my grill tray but otherwise use two smaller ones) with baking paper and scatter over the tomato wedges, chopped fennel, garlic cloves and thyme leaves.  Drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil and season generously with sea salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the tomatoes are somewhat blistered and the fennel is turning golden in colour.

Heat a large soup pot, add a little olive oil and lightly fry the onion until soft.  Remove the garlic cloves from the roast tomatoes and fennel tray and place the rest of the contents in the pot with the onions.  When the garlic has cooled slightly, squeeze the garlic out with your fingers, it should be a lovely pasty consistency.  Add the tin tomatoes, stock and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine before bringing up to a simmer.  Pop the lid on and allow to simmer slowly for about 20 minutes.  Use a stick blender (or processor) to blend the soup until really smooth and silky and then have a taste.  Roasting the tomatoes makes them sweeter so you may not need sugar but I usually will add a teaspoon or two, especially as tomato paste is quite tart, it tends to balance out the acidity.  Adjust any other seasoning if you feel it is necessary.

To make the pesto, place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until you have a nice, fine paste.  I like to add a little more olive oil right at the end, once I have decanted from the blender.

To serve, divide the soup between deep serving bowls and gently place a dollop of pesto in the centre.  Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the pesto and scatter over the toasted pine nuts and baby herbs.  Season with a little more cracked pepper and serve with hot, crusty bread.  This is a total winner.

If you are looking for ways to rid yourself of excess tomatoes, this Gnocchi with Blistered Tomato Sauce recipe may also do the trick!  The sauce can be used with any type of pasta you desire…..