More Great Recipes: Soup

Non-Minimalist Winter Tomato Soup with Curry Leaf

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Serves 4 | Prep Time | Cook Time

Why I Love This Recipe

My mother, a Gujarati Indian woman, has been making this soup for years, to "Indianify" the standard tomato soup without much of a complex masala or a lot of extra steps. She's a minimalist cook: a woman who came to this country to raise her girls, trying to root down into her Indian heritage while welcoming a very new culture: America! To simplify her life, she used simple prepared foods but accentuated them with Indian spices. This tomato soup is an example of taking a boxed prepared soup and simmering it with a spiced oil. The curry leaf, mustard seed, and cumin seed combination (fried in a technique called tarka and added at the end) lend a definite “Indian” flavor to an otherwise very simple tomato soup. You can certainly leave the tarka out for a pure American-style tomato soup, especially when you want to stay true to one region. I don’t often cross over borders with my own personal cooking, but this soup is a great entry point to just a touch of spice!

Ingredients You'll Need

2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatos, preferable Muir Glen Fire Roasted variety

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 packed tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup heavy cream

For tarka:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon cumin seed
about 10 fresh curry leaves


Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, scoop in the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot.

Saute for a few minutes, avoiding any browning of the vegetables.

Stir in the spices: the bay leaf, black pepper, salt, basil, and thyme.

Cook for a few minutes, then pour in the tomatos.

Pour in the stock and sugar.

Cook at a simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.

When it’s cooled down a little, puree the soup in a blender, in batches as necessary.

Pour the pureed soup back into pot and turn on heat to low.

Stir in the heavy cream and keep on low.

Meanwhile, keep ingredients ready and nearby for the tarka: using a small skillet, like an 8 inch skillet, begin to heat the vegetable oil until it’s shimmering hot but not smoking. Immediately add the mustard seeds. After a few seconds you will hear them pop, then immediately add the cumin seeds. Next quickly drop in the curry leaves, keeping a distance since they will splatter in the oil. Turn off heat immediately. The cumin seeds should only be lightly browned, not black.

This tarka technique takes some practice so don’t be worried if you have to do it again!

Pour the spiced oil into the soup. Stir well and remove from heat. Serve! And please do eat the curry leaves!

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