Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Little Early Morning Writing and a Weather-Indifferent Herbed Tomato Soup

As I sit here on this early Wednesday morning, it's just me, my cup of tea and the quietness of a house that has not yet come to life. In my opinion, when Mr. Ben Franklin said "early to bed early to rise...", he knew what he was talking about. I feel as though I can think better in the morning- something that comes in very handy when I have a deadline or when I just need time to collect my thoughts and get ready for the day ahead.
When I write early in the morning, I'm usually seated at my dining room table. From there, I pretty much have a wonderful view of the garden. It's great to take a break from the keyboard every now and then and see how the sky is changing or witness the moment when the sun finally peeks through the clouds.
Unfortunately, that last bit hasn't happened much these last few days (dare I say weeks). It seems like the sun has gone on vacation, because all we wake up to is gray skies, rain and unseasonably cool temperatures. It's quite interesting to note how the weather can have such a huge effect on everything and everyone. The shops have stopped selling barbecue items, people are walking around wearing coats and I'm finding myself lighting the fireplace and candles before the evening sets in! Not to mention that I feel as though I'm automatically cooking more autumnal foods!
It looks like things might get a little better today though. The sky is a pale shade of baby blue and with the exception of a few watercolor clouds, there doesn't seem to be much to worry about. As luck would have it, it also happens to be market day, so I think I'll wait until Kirstie gets out of bed and we'll have a wander through the stalls- in the sun! In the meantime, I would like to share the recipe for a rather weather-indifferent soup I made this Sunday. My thick, herb-infused tomato soup was comforting enough to make us forget the wet, Dutch climate, yet bright and sunny enough to remind us that it was still summer.
Note: This hearty herbed tomato and smoked chicken soup is full of deep flavors- the result of a night's worth of marinating and a slow-cooking time of about three hours. You'd be surprised to know that I've used can tomatoes. In my defense, good canned tomatoes. The lack of summer left me no choice. There are no good tomatoes to speak of. Complaining aside, here's the recipe. Enjoy!
Herbed Tomato and Smoked Chicken Soup
Serves 4

2x 400g cans whole, peeled tomatoes
2 tbsps mild olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic syrup (vincotto/crema di balsamico)
small bunch of thyme and a small bunch of rosemary (tied in a little bundle)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 tbsp dried oregano
pinch of chili flakes
2 1/2 tsps sugar (I used rosemary infused sugar)
250 ml water
350g smoked chicken breast, diced
sea salt and plenty of freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Put the tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic syrup, herb bundle, garlic, oregano, chili flakes, sugar and salt and pepper in a medium-sized heavy bottomed pan. Using a potato masher, give everything a bit of a mash, stirring as you go, in order to combine all the flavors. Don't mash everything too much though! You'll want some nice chunks of tomatoes. Place the lid on the pan and set it in the fridge overnight. The next day, about 2-3 hours before you want to eat, place the pan on the stove and bring everything to a quick boil. Add the water and immediately reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 2-3 hours, checking and stirring every now and then and adding a little more water if necessary. Add in the cubed chicken about twenty minutes before the end of cooking time. Taste the soup, correct the seasoning and serve.

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