This is and old recipe of mine, from the days when I was realising that what I ate didn't have to come from a tin or packet but could be made from real things that were actually growing all around me! In this particular case it was the discovery of fresh herbs. The joy I got then of going out to the garden, picking a bunch of leaves and dropping them into my soup has never left me. French Tarragon in particular I love. It has that sort of "old house" mustiness to it, different to the earthiness of fennel seeds or that larger than life intensity of a star anise . . .
This is also a good one for the end of Winter, beginning of Spring because there will still be leeks standing and everybody has a tin of tomatoes in the larder. Finding fresh herbs might be more difficult, but as I say use whatever you have there'll be Rosemary out there and you can often find Parsley and Tarragon out there sheltering under the leaves and tangled dead stuff.
-Begin with a leek, an onion and a garlic clove. Peel them and as this soup will not be blended, chop them to the size you'll want in the final soup - chunky or small whatever you fancy.
-Fry them gently in some olive oil and butter, until translucent. This will take a good ten or fifteen minutes, don't rush it.
-Add in a tin of tomatoes (if whole I chop the tomatoes up roughly in the pan with a knife) and a pint of vegetable stock.
-Leave to simmer for a further fifteen or twenty minutes until the tomatoes have collapsed and the flavours all blend together.
(This would be a good time to make some cheese scones)
- Once the soup is cooked add in some salt if required and enough ground black pepper to give a warmth in the background (remember it is still winter)
- Now just before serving add in a good handfull or two of fresh herbs, use whatever you have - I like a good handfull of flat leaved parsley and a bit less than half of that of tarragon. Carefull with the Tarragon because it is quite strong.
Serve with your scones buttered still be warm from the oven - delicious.
Does everybody go through that stage in their cookery development? You know discovering that you can actually make things from scratch? I certainly did of course and I see my teenage boys doing it now. They still come and gaze into the fridge and larder, hoping some readymade delight will leap out to be eaten straightaway. Or at most after a couple of minutes in the microwave, because don't you realise that they are hungry right now and have things to do and cannot possibly wait . . . . But now I notice their heads turning to what I am doing at the stove. "What's in the pan?" they'll say. "Leek and tomato soup" I say "would you like some?" "No" they say automatically looking down at the frozen pizza in their hands and then back at the soup with a slightly puzzled expression, thinking . . . The seeds of change are there, beginning to germinate I think, it won't be long now.