I bring you this dish on a cold, blustery day in Cornwall but, while it warms me up nicely as I take a scoop from my bowl and hear the chilly, breeze blowing outside, if you are fortunate enough to be having a sunnier and warmer 1st of June than myself then please still feel free to devour this lovely soup and enjoy it's vibrant, refreshing, summery flavours.
Never will I eat tomato soup without a grilled cheese again. The crisp, golden bread encasing an ocean of melted cheddar and sweet, caramelized red onions is the perfect accompaniment to dunk into this wonderful soup and quite frankly the perfect food to eat at any moment when hunger strikes; breakfast, dinner, tea... and again for dessert. It is scrumptious! Taking the typical cheese toastie I've always had growing up, the American's thought why not go one better and smother this in butter and fry it until crunchy and glorious? Boy am I glad they did. Add in a yummy roast tomato soup drizzled with pesto oil, scattered with molten mozzarella and topped with a vine of sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes and you've got yourself a pretty damn delicious dinner.
Makes 4 BIG bowls of soup and 4 gorgeous grilled cheeses.
For the Roast Tomato Soup:
12 salad tomatoes, halved
A pinch of caster sugar
6 tbsp. olive oil plus extra to drizzle
50g unsalted butter
2 each of onions, carrots and garlic cloves, chopped fairly small
2 tbsp. tomato puree
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 basil sprig plus 12 leaves to prepare the basil oil
1 litre vegetable stock
4 clusters of vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
12 mini mozzarella balls/pearls
For the Grilled Cheddar Cheese and Caramelized Red Onion Sandwiches:
1 large red onion, sliced
1 tsp. olive oil
A good sprinkling of dark brown sugar
A good glug of balsamic vinegar
8 slices of thick white bread
A hefty pile of grated mature cheddar cheese
Unsalted butter, softened
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the salad tomatoes, cut-side up, onto a baking tray and sprinkle with sugar, drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast for 40 minutes until nice and softened.
2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and cook the onion, carrot and garlic, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaf, basil sprig, vegetable stock, roasted salad tomatoes and any cooking juices. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are lovely and tender.
4. Discard the basil sprig, cool slightly and then blend the soup in batches. Return to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring until warmed through.
5. While you warm through the soup, take your vine ripened cherry tomatoes, place them into a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until softened and lightly charred.
6. Next, place 5 tbsp. olive oil into a blender with 12 large basil leaves and blitz to make your basil oil.
7. You can now prepare your grilled cheese sandwiches. I apologize for the vagueness of my ingredients list here but, this is because with a grilled cheese you can't really go wrong with how you prepare it; what ingredients you put in it or how much of each ingredient you use. It's entirely up to you! To prepare my caramelized red onion I add the sliced red onion to a saucepan, fry it until softened in 1 tsp. olive oil, then add a sprinkling of dark brown sugar, stirring until the onion becomes caramelized, add in a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue to cook until the onion is lovely, glossy and sticky.
8. I then like to take two pieces of chunky, white tiger bread, scatter one piece with a large pile of grated mature cheddar cheese (please feel free to use whatever cheese you like though e.g. goats cheese, edam, swiss cheese, blue cheese and as much as you like!), scatter on some caramelized red onions, place the other round of bread on top and squash down a little to help the sandwich hold together when you're flipping it in the pan.
9. Next, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, spread a layer of butter on top of your sandwich and place it butter side down into the hot frying pan, leaving to fry for a few minutes until lovely, crisp and golden. Once ready to flip, spread another layer of butter on the uncooked side of the sandwich and flip, leaving for a few minutes again until crunchy and bronze. Grate a little more cheese on the top side and keep flipping until both sides are bronze and crunchy and the cheese in the center is completely melted.
10. Now scoop the warm soup into bowls, place three mozzarella balls into each and allow to melt in the hot soup, drizzle with a swirl of basil oil and pop a vine of the roasted cherry tomatoes on top. Finally, cut your crunchy grilled cheese in half and watch as a waterfall of golden cheese oozes out. Last of all, whether your snuggled up on your sofa in a blanket or sunbathing outside on a deckchair, sit back and enjoy!