Well it’s meant to be the middle of summer here in New Zealand, but you could have certainly fooled me. It’s been freezing all week and a freak thunder and lightning storm rocked through the other day, destroying a good deal of my beautiful garden. It’ll survive, it’s just nowhere near as pretty. There are huge holes in the courgette leaves from grape sized hail and the strawberries are decimated *big heaving sigh.*
At least beautiful summer fruit and vegetables are in season, so every thundercloud has a silver lining I guess. Tomatoes are at $1.89 a kilo (about 90c a pound) and I got a huge bag of bell peppers for just $3.95. Due to the wintry weather we’re all craving something warming, so what better excuse for a delicious roasted tomato and bell pepper soup to warm and fill our home with delicious roasty smells? None, I say.
Seeing as all of the components of this soup cook in the oven, you only need to spend a few minutes preparing, then go on with something else as everything quietly roasts. Then all you do is whack some gorgeous ciabatta topped with vegan cheese in the oven while you blend all roasted ingredients, serve straight from the blender with crunchy cheezy toast on the side. Too easy.
Turn your oven on to 180°C (360°F) and begin preparing all your gorgeous ingredients. Add your tomatoes to a deepish dish, they will open up during cooking and release all their delicious juice. Drizzle with a little melted vegan margarine or coconut oil.
Sprinkle with your favourite dried herbs, I used a nice Italian mix, rosemary, basil and thyme. Give a good grind of pepper and a sprinkle of pink salt.
Chop up your bell peppers into decent sized chunks, again drizzle with your choice of oil and season to taste.
I picked up a beautiful bulb of this season’s New Zealand garlic as well which just screaming out to be roasted and added to the deliciousness of this soup.
When I sliced the top off this massive bulb and placed it into a ramekin to be seasoned, wrapped in foil and lovingly roasted, I found the whole thing only comprised of 5 cloves. Who’dve thunk it?!
Whack the top and bottom off a couple of medium sized onions.
Give them the same oil and seasoning treatment and place them either on the same tray as the capsicums or their very own oven proof dish.
Add everything to the oven as you get done drizzling and seasoning. Mine all took around the same amount of time, about one hour. Due to the fact everything you chop will be different sizes, just check every 20 minutes and eyeball it. When they look roasted or a skewer goes through them nicely, take them out and leave them on the stovetop to keep warm until the rest of the components are ready. My things of beauty looked like this on completion.
Load everything into your blender. It all fit perfectly into mine. I only squeezed in two of the massive roasted garlic bulbs in and put the rest of the bulb in an airtight container in the fridge.
Wizz until it is gorgeously smooth.
This recipe made just over two litres of soup for me, with just the juices of the vegetables. Yay!
So it’s been nearly a year now since I became vegetarian, as it was a 2015 New Year’s resolution. My 2016 New Year’s resolution? Vegan. Yes, I am taking the plunge. This blog will still rock on because my children and partner are still omnivores, so I will still cook vegetarian for them. I however will substitute vegan options for myself.
So my one biggest concern (a cliche I know), is how on earth I am going to survive without cheese. I mean, I cook with cheese. A lot. So my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to find a decent, melty substitute that is going to satisfy my never ending cheese cravings. The vegan movement is building in New Zealand, but we still don’t have the choices that other countries enjoy. So I did my research, and found an NZ company making vegan dairy products. Hurrah! I found a supermarket that stocked the mozzarella and parmesan and I toddled off to purchase.
To be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope for this vegan cheese. I’ve tried a few vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes and have been bitterly disappointed. My last purchase was a vegetarian luncheon (balogna) and it was just that. It had little to no taste and a weird, unpleasant texture. So I hesitantly added a few slices of this new arrival to some fresh ciabatta and toasted it in the oven as I blended the soup.
The result? Heavenly. Beautiful, tasty, melty, stretchy. Satisfied every cheese craving and then some. Just look at this gorgeousness. Take. A look at this. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Yesssssss.
Before this cheeze, I was terrified of taking the vegan plunge. Now I am hopeful, happy and excited to take on the challenge in the new year.
I topped the finished product with a shake or 5 of vegan parmesan and served with the vegan cheeze melts. My omnivorous partner loved it, was totally impressed with the the cheeze and asked for seconds. He asked for the rest of it for lunch today. I told him hands off because the rest is for pasta tonight. However I had to look away because my eyes were shining due to being secretly thrilled to bits that he’d liked it that much.
So without further ado, here is the recipe.
- 1kg (2 pounds) fresh tomatoes or 2 cans if not in season
- Vegan margarine or coconut oil to drizzle
- 2 - 3 capsicums
- 2 medium onions
- 3 - 4 medium cloves roasted garlic
- 2 t brown sugar
- Mixed herbs
- Fresh ground pepper and pink salt
- 2 slices of ciabatta per person
- 2 slices vegan mozarella
- A few fresh basil leaves
- Place the tomatoes in a dish to catch the juices as they cook. Drizzle with melted vegan margarine or coconut oil. Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and roast in the oven.
- Chop the capsicum into quarters or slices, drizzle, season and place in the oven.
- Slice the top off the bulb of garlic and place it in a ramekin. Drizzle, season and wrap the whole thing in foil. Add to the oven.
- Top and tail the onions. Drizzle, season and roast in their own oven dish or together with the capsicums.
- When everything is cooked (test with a skewer every 20 minutes), add all soup ingredients to the blender. Blend until smooth. Season and add a brown sugar a teaspoon at a time if it needs it. Reheat if required.
- Garnish with the roasted tomato tops and some vegan parmesan (optional).
- Slice one piece of ciabatta per person and halve down the middle. Add cheese, fresh basil and place the top back on. Toast in the hot oven as you blend the soup.
- Serve together immediately.