How to season your food correctly pt 1- homemade tomato soup

There is something not many people realise. You don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive ingredients to make delicious food. In fact you just need 2 things – decent basic ingredients and a good knowledge of how to season them. I’m not talking about spices and herb mixes and rubs here – to start with, I mean just salt.

Yes, you read that right, plain old salt. You may not realise it but salt is the most basic flavour enhancer there is – when something is properly salted all the sweetness, tartness and other flavours magically pop out too. Before you close the browser window as if I’m crazy, let me tell you a few things.  Once I saw a chef on tv ranting about how people think restaurant food is so much more amazing than what you can make at home – he said it wasn’t, it was just seasoned properly and that most people had no idea how to season food. The second point is to do with my choice of recipe for teaching this – my mum’s tomato soup. I tried it once and thought it was delicious – hot, fresh, thick, tangy tomatoey soup, everything you could want with a crusty roll on the side. I asked her for the recipe and was shocked when she told me there were only 2 ingredients, and salt. I realised then the power of getting this basic seasoning right, and how it can take a bland, watery and sour tasting dish and make it something phenomenal.

Ready? Read on!

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Ingredients – serves 2 generously
250ml passata
2 finely sliced spring onions /scallions
(if you really want to push the boat out add some whole cherry tomatoes to the soup – just a handful – and let them cook in it until they’re soft enough to pop)
100ml approx of water
Salt

1. Put everything other than the salt in a pot and bring to the boil.
2. reduce to a simmer then season as follows.  I know from experience roughly how much salt this dish needs, but I’ll start you off deliberately lower so you can taste the difference. First off try it with no salt.

Probably all you’ll taste is sourness and onion. Now add half a teaspoon of salt and try again.

Can you tell the difference? Still doesn’t taste right though, still somewhat sour and just… Well… Not right somehow.

Take a small pinch of salt in your fingers and stir it in. Try again.

As you keep doing this you’ll gradually notice the sourness reducing – strange I know but it does happen… And as you reach the tipping point the soup starts to taste savoury and tomatoey, not salty I might add, but just really good. The sourness is in the background as part of the overall flavour, not the only thing you can taste. If the soup tastes actually salty you’ve gone too far. As a guide you should need just around 3/4 tsp of salt for this quantity of soup, a little more or less according to personal taste. So start with less and add more as you need it.

Play with it, and remember – add little and keep tasting. You can always add a little more salt but you can’t take it out! 

A cheat’s tip for reducing the saltiness of an over seasoned dish is to add a little lemon juice, effectively taking the flavour back a step. That or add more water in this case and have a slightly thinner soup. But you won’t need to do that, will you? 😉

3. Once it’s simmered for a couple of minutes and you seasoned it right, it’s done! Enjoy 🙂

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