Roasted Tomato Shorba

Tough day in the office? Repeatedly sneezed on during the central line rush hour? Feeling a bit sniffly? Had your favourite pair of Cheap Monday’s tsunamically and indeed deliberately drenched by some sadist in a white van? If like me you’ve recently suffered from any/all of the above then what you need is a great steaming bowl of shorba. Nothing sorts me out quite like that rich, soothing hug of a soup, alive with spices and the spiky warmth of ginger. It truly is the perfect antidote to so many of life’s woes.

I’m talking about the sub continental version here, but the origins and versions of this dish are as debated as those of the word  “soup” itself.  In Persian it literally means a “brakish stew” and was first mentioned in a 10th Century Arab cookbook, as well as more recently in Khaleed Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner”.  The Turks call it “chorba” and the Romanians “ciorba”. Varieties can range from Romanian tripe broth to “chorba akhtaboot” (Algerian octopus soup). Dishoom, the Bombay café in Covent Garden does a beautiful  tomato version, all velvety, complex and deep.

I’m a fan of Delia’s roasted tomato soup and decided to incorporate her method of roasting the tomato halves with garlic and seasoning first, before blitzing with the other flavourings to really whack up the savour.


6 medium-large tomatoes, halved

10 curry leaves

3 cloves garlic

25g butter or ghee

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

2 cloves

1-2 inches ginger, grated to a  paste

The crushed seeds of 2 cardamom pods

A pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper

1/2 can coconut milk

1/2 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Tamarind/lemon juice to taste


  • Place the tomato halves skin side down in a roasting tray (you can skin them in boiling water before cutting in half, although I never really bother).
  • Sprinkle with the crushed garlic, salt, sugar, pepper and crown with the curry leaves. Trickle over a little olive oil.
  • Roast for around 30 minutes at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 or until nicely frazzled around the edges. Allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter or ghee in a saucepan and when it starts to foam, add the cumin and mustard seeds.
  • Once they’ve spluttered and popped, add the onion and ginger.
  • Add the remaining spices ( bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, green chilli and black pepper) cook until the onions are almost charred.
  • Tip in the tomatoes and mash down to a pulpy mess.
  • Add the stock and the coconut milk
  • Blitz the lot in a blender. You can strain it at this stage if you’re after a smoother finish, but I prefer not to.
  • Add tamarind or lemon juice to taste and sprinkle with coriander. Serve hot.


  1. Mmmmm that is exactly what I want to eat on this grotty Friday afternoon – can you bike some over?

  2. Hmmm – just made this for lunch – so easy and so tasty – many thanks. Mmmmm!

  3. mmm, love it. especially the ‘spiky ginger’ in it. just the ticket for the Fall, isnt it? when my arabic-speaking friends talked about shorba i always got confused, bec in Urdu, it just means gravy/curry. ‘mum, can you make chicken shorba tonight?’ do you have this word in bangla, too? xx

    • Thanks,yes it’s lovely at this time of year. “Shuruwa” means gravy, or a thin curry in Bengali. Didn’t Salman Rushdie once say that listening to Bengali was like hearing Urdu spoken underwater? What a truly delightful man. x

  4. Perfect for this time of year,roasting the tomatoes really does make a difference with the flavour.

  5. Love it Rejina. Just what I need for a cold evening I tell you. And some crusty bread on the side. Love that you have roasted toms tho I have to try it with coconut milk too. Will be gorgeous & creamy. Yum!

  6. Oooooh this looks lovely, a good precursor to a rendang do you reckon or too much much coconut going on?

    (wish I could squeeze into a pair of Cheap Mondays)

  7. charlie n

    I made this last night, simply banging.

  8. This looks flippin fabulous. Boy, am I looking forward to coming to yours for dinner 🙂

  9. This looks fantastic- am trying to do ‘meatless mondays’- think my husband aka The Hungry One is getting a little sick of my pea soups 🙂 This is jumping to the top of the list! Congratulations on a fantastic blog-

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