Around the world tomato soup has a special place in the heart of people. My mother rarely made her own – we ate tinned tomato soup, and it was wonderful! With piles of well buttered toast, butter made from fresh cow’s milk, we ate the soup in front of the wood fire on cold winter nights, slurping bowl after bowl.
While tomato based gravies and sauces are common in India, the idea of soup has not been common until more recent times. And my guess is that the British invasion had a lot to do with the growth of the popularity of Indian Tomato Soup. Derived from other dishes, Indian Tomato Soups (there are lots of different recipes) has gained a place in the heart of many inside and outside of that country.
We have another Indian Tomato Soup, one filled with cream (or use coconut milk) and gentle aromatic spices including lemongrass. It is a great recipe, but this one is different. This one is punchy and spicy, and totally gorgeous. On top of that, it is very easy to make.
North Indian soups are called Shorba and they are packed full of warming spices that help fight off colds and sniffles. In North India when the weather turns chilly you will find the shorba carts rolling into the streets. A traditional shorba is more of a consomme (a thin, watery soup that is very, very flavoursome) rather than the thick soups we are used to in the West. They tend to be served as drinks in small clay cups which warm your hands, your insides and your soul. They can also be served with rice as a winter warmer. Spicy shorbas originated from the Mughal cuisine. The spices used are all about warming your insides so lots of ginger, garlic, chilli and masalas.
Tamatar Shorba | Indian Tomato Soup
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into small dice
1 shallot or small white onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped, or adjust to your taste preferences
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cm ginger root, chopped (or use 0.5 tspn ginger powder)
1 Indian bay leaf (teja pat)
1 small stick of Cinnamon
2 star anise
2 black cardamom
1 bunch coriander
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tspn ghee
1.5 tspn cumin seeds
8 curry leaves
Using a medium saucepan, add the spices, tomatoes, carrots, onions, chilli, garlic and ginger. Add the stalks of the coriander, finely chopped. Then add enough water to make a soup. Begin with 1.5 – 2 cups of water, and top it up with more if needed while it is cooking.
Bring to a boil and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down. It will take 20 – 30 mins of gentle simmering. Remove the whole spices.
Blend the soup in a blender or use an immersion (stick) blender. Bring back to a simmer and season with sea salt and some coarsely ground black pepper. Be generous with the pepper – you want it to give the soup a bite. Remove from the heat.
Make a tadka – in a small pan heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the curry leaves (they will splatter – be careful), and pour the spices and oil on top of the soup. Cover and allow to rest for up to 5 minutes. Top with coriander leaves if desired. Serve and enjoy.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add a little jaggery or sugar if the tomatoes are a little tart.
This can be made with canned tomatoes too.