Italian Basil Tomato Soup

Slow cooked delicious Italian Basil Soup. The long cooking process in this recipe helps to coax out the natural sweetness and flavour of the tomatoes, resulting in a beautifully balanced soup, the basil oil adding a final complementary flourish.

1 kg tomatoes,
4 garlic cloves,
4 thyme sprigs,
2 bay leaves,
4 rosemary sprigs,
1 tsp sea salt,
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 litre hot vegetable stock or water

for the basil oil
30 g fresh basil leaves
60 g extra virgin olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C

2. Halve the tomatoes and place them in a roasting pan lined parchment paper. Add the garlic cloves and scatter over the sea salt, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme springs. Drizzle over the olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven for two hours. Check the tray once or twice during roasting, and give it a little shake to prevent the tomatoes sticking to the base.

3. While the tomatoes are roasting, make the basil oil. Have to hand a bowl full of ice-cold water. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the basil leaves and prod them into the water with a wooden spoon to immerse them. After 15 seconds, remove from the heat, strain through a sieve and plunge the leaves into the ice-cold water. This will arrest the cooking process. Strain again, then pat dry on kitchen paper. Place in a blender with the olive oil and process for 30 seconds or until fairly smooth. Set to one side.

4. Remove the tray of tomatoes from the oven. Pour in the hot stock and stir to combine. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes, continuing to stir, then remove from the heat and set to one side for 15 minutes to cool. Remove the woody stalks of thyme and rosemary, and fish out the garlic cloves. Squeeze the garlic, which will be soft and puree-like, back into the tray, discarding the skin.

5. Use a blender to process the soup until smooth. To serve, reheat gently over a low heat until on the edge of a simmer. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little basil oil.

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