I don’t remember when I first ate a red pepper. Sometime in my thirties I expect. My mother believed in canned vegetables. The only Italian food we enjoyed came in cardboard boxes made by Kraft. It was a different world.
My first pepper experience was intense. One bite and I stopped and froze. What on earth was this thing in my mouth? Far, far too strong for me. Just not like creamed corn at all.
Now, peppers and chiles abound in our kitchen. Eaten raw, smoked, and sautéed. We eat them almost every day. Roasted red peppers have a flavor that is so complex, and so satisfying, that they can be the basis for an entire dish. Like this soup, the perfect foil for an autumn meal.
This recipe comes from Leon Happy Soups, a delightful new book with soup ideas from around the world. The headnotes in the cookbook say that, while you could use red peppers from a jar, you would miss the smoky flavor you get by flame-cooking the peppers at home. That is quite true and I’ll be blogging soon about roasting peppers on your stovetop. It’s quick, just requires a tad bit of care you don’t burn them, but powerfully productive.
I would serve this soup with my best round of cheesy croutons. The idea here is to serve hot off the stove. I’m sure that chilled the next day will be equally excellent.
To make this soup creamier, add a spoonful of cream or sour cream per bowl and stir.
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Yield: serves 4
- 5 red bell peppers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Scant 3 ½ cups hot chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Garnish with extra virgin olive oil or gremolata or diced veggies or crouton or everything you’ve got
Hold the whole red bell peppers directly over a flame and cook, turning, until blistered and blackened all over. Alternatively, heat the broiler to its highest setting halve the peppers, and broil, skin side up, until blackened in the same way.
When done, seal the peppers into plastic sandwich bags and let steam and cool.
Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, onions, carrot celery, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring again. Add the smoked paprika and the broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
The peppers should now be cool enough to handle. Rub off the blackened skins, and discard, then remove the stalks, seeds, and ribs. (Don’t rinse them, as you’ll lose the flavor.) Chop into bite-size pieces and add to the pan of broth, then simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until completely smooth. Taste and add more seasoning, if necessary. Reduce a little on the stove if you feel the soup isn’t quite thick enough—peppers can release a lot of liquid.
Garnish as you wish.
Source: Leon Happy Soups by John Vincent and Rebecca Seal [Conran, 2017]