Comfort food: part three

I think I’m coming down with a cold. It’s that time of year when everyone at the office is snuffling and sneezing and now I’m feeling a bit under the weather.

They say that chicken soup is good for the soul but even when I ate meat, I hated the stuff. No, in times of trouble I’ve always turned to Heinz tomato soup. Now I’m vegan I can’t eat it so I make my own. Sure, I could buy shop-bought versions but they’re usually packed full of sugar and salt and besides, homemade costs a fraction of the price.

This recipe takes no time at all to make, is s(o)uper easy and uses just three ingredients: tomatoes, onions and olive oil. The best bit is that there is minimal chopping and you can even use tinned tomatoes if you’re really rushed for time.

I’ve added a bit of spice to ward away the germs but if you’re not a chilli fiend, try fresh or dried basil or oregano. Some crushed fennel seeds would work too if you want a sharper flavour – as with chilli, you should go easy with this. If you want to add a bit of bite to the soup, chuck in a can of cannellini beans right at the end.

Back in the day, I’d eat my soup with cheese on toast. I’m not a huge fan of vegan ‘cheese’ (and no, I haven’t tried the ‘Gary’ that Sainsbury’s is now selling by the shedload) so I’ll normally have a bit of houmous with bread. As a change, I’ve made a chunky butterbean spread which is nicely creamy with a hint of heat. You could make this with chickpeas or cannellini beans if you prefer. Give it a whirl. I’ve used ras el hanout, a mixture of spices, which is often used in Middle Eastern cooking but try cumin, paprika or chilli powder if you can’t get your hands on it. I got mine in M&S for a mere three quid.

tomato soup.jpg
Tomato soup with butter bean spread on toast

Tomato soup

Serves 4


1.4kg of tomatoes (that’s 12-13 big ‘uns), cut into quarters – make sure to remove the hard bit at the top – or 2 tins of chopped or plum tomatoes

2 onion (red or white), peeled and cut into four

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 chilli (optional), finely chopped

1 teaspoon of salt

5-6 mugs of water



Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large pan or saucepan. Add the onion wedges, water, tomatoes, the salt, and chilli if you’re using it. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and add additional salt as needed.

Turn off the heat and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes. Now blend the soup using a hand-held blender or a regular one. If you’re using the latter, it’s best to blend in batches and not fill the blender as much as you usually would since the soup is so hot. Return to the pan and reheat. Serve with bread or on its own.

Chunky butter bean spread

Serves 2


1 tin of butterbeans, rinsed and drained

The juice and pulp of one lemon

2 tablespoons of tahini

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of ras el hanout

Salt and pepper



In a bowl, mash the butter beans with a potato masher or a fork. Do this slowly, but thoroughly and add the oil and the lemon juice and pulp, and the oil gradually. Add the tahini and whichever spices you’re using and mix well. Serve on toast or crackers.


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