Monday, 26 October 2015

Tomato & Celery Soup from 1908

About a month ago, when there were still tomatoes, I was browsing an old cookbook and came across the following recipe:
"Three large tomatoes or one can, one bunch celery, one onion, one quart water, salt and pepper to taste. Thicken with one tablespoon of flour and one of butter creamed. - Very good - Mrs. Babbitt."
Of course, by the time I got around to trying it, the tomatoes were gone, so "one can" it had to be.

I also have to say now I have been growing my own celery, I am adjusting to what used to seem like massive quantities of celery called for in old recipes. In fact, I guess all bunches of celery used to be like what I get, compared to modern supermarket bunches - sadly small.

Another recipe on the opposite page called for bay leaves and cayenne, and I thought they sounded like a fine idea. In fact, I thought the recipe needed some more seasoning generally, and when I puréed it and found it rather pale, some paprika solved both those problems. I didn't add it, because I wanted to stick fairly closely to the original, but I think this would be improved by the addition of some garlic.

This is a simple, fairly plain soup, best as a starter to meal rather than a meal in itself, but we did find it "Very good".

6 to 8 servings
40 minutes prep time

Tomato & Celery Soup

4 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
6 to 8 stalks of celery (4 cups chopped)
2 medium onions (1 cup chopped)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic OPTIONAL
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups water
1 or 2 bay leaves
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Prepare the tomatoes, either by blanching them, peeling them, and chopping them; or by opening the can. Wash, trim and chop the celery. Peel and chop the onions.

Heat the butter in the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, over medium heat, and add the onions and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until they are quite soft and wilted. Sprinkle them with the flour, salt, and pepper. Mix in well, and cook for a minute or two more, until the flour is well amalgamated. Add the tomatoes, mix well, then add the water, bay leaves and cayenne. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes more, stirring frequently.

You can leave the soup chunky, especially if you have cut everything up nicely, or you can purée it in a food processor or blender to the texture you would like. Return it to the pot, mix in the paprika, and reheat to serve.

I used 4 tablespoons of flour, and although I didn't think it was too thick, I can imagine wanting it a little thinner. Use less flour if you prefer a thinner, more brothy soup. 

Last year at this time I made Creamy Celery & Leeks with Rice and Leek & Squash Soup.

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