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)
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.