keito potato

Indian Cream of Tomato Soup
February 11, 2010, 12:50 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been making this soup for years, an Indian adaption of the British classic. It’s steeped in spices, savory and lemony. My version is inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. My departure from her method lies in increasing the spices and aromatics, and from time to time swapping half-and-half instead of her heavy cream. You can make your own decision regarding milk-fat-percentage.

I consider the lemongrass optional, since I’ve lived in places where it’s tricky to find. In that situation I simply add more lemon juice at the end. Lemongrass infuses a more subtle fragrance than lemon itself, but please don’t feel like its absence makes the recipe prohibitive. In fact, half the time I throw together an all-lemon version.

However you really should try your best to procure some curry leaves. They make the soup distinctive. Fresh leaves are best, but dried will do. They look a bit like bay leaves, and have a deep, earthy savoriness. These days even sweet ol’ Bakersfield has some serious Indian delis, so I’ll just bet you can find curry leaves if you look for them.

This is truly one of my favorite soups, and that’s a serious statement coming from me. I remember a conversation with my friend Katy last summer in which we discussed why we would never get tattoos. One of my top reasons was that my favorite things in life would look silly as tattoos… like a bowl of soup. I don’t think you want to imagine a bowl of soup tattoo on my ankle.

Which is to say that I’m serious about soup, and this is one of the best. Even my tomato-hating mother now adores it. The curry leaves and the cumin won her over.


28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon sliced lemongrass (optional)
1 tablespoon curry leaves
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-4 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

Combine the tomatoes, lemon grass, curry leaves, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Uncover, turn heat up to medium, and simmer another 15 minutes.

Remove the ginger and lemon grass slices. I like to count my slices going in, so I know I catch them all at the end. I’m smitten with the curry leaves, so I let them stay in the soup (whilst Madhur Jaffrey removes hers). Puree with an immersion stick blender. Keep the tomato mixture on a soft simmer.

Meanwhile toast the cumin seeds in a small skillet on medium-low heat. When they darken and smell lovely, mash them lightly with a mortar and pestle.

In a second saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour. Stir and cook the flour on low heat for 2-3 minutes. You don’t want the flour to taste raw, but you also don’t want the other extreme of letting it turn brown. So keep an eye on it.

Now pour in the hot tomato juice, stirring all the while. Add the cream or half-and-half and the remaining 3/4 salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Add the milk, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne, and raise the heat to medium. When it is almost to a boil, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Make sure the soup is hot before you add the lemon juice, or the soup will curdle, which is less than cute.

1 Comment so far
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I’d like to try it. I do love a good soup and I’m always looking for new recipes.

Comment by Jenny

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