Soup is a staple in this house. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s frugal and if I make it on my day off it sits happily in the fridge waiting to be consumed for quick lunches and post-work suppers. This particular soup is a favourite all year round, although the warming spices are particularly welcome on a chilly, Autumn evening.
The soup uses Sumac and Cumin which bring earthy sweetness to acidic tomato. Sumac is a dried, crushed, red berry which is used in North African and Middle Eastern spice blends. If you have an Arabic food shop near you then you will have no trouble finding this. My local Asda stock it in their “food of the world” aisle, which is pretty much my only reason for going there.
Ras el Hanout is a favourite of mine. It is synonymous with Moroccan cooking, although is used through out most of North Africa. It is earthy, sweet, spicy, fragrant, mysterious…. It’s name translates from Arabic into English as ‘the head of the shop’ or ‘top shelf’. It’s an everyday luxury and every shop keeper, cook and family has their own secret recipe. Purists claim that it must have 12 different spices to be a real Ras el Hanout. Mine only has nine, so sorry Purists!
The flat breads are a piece of piss too. Sometimes if I know I have a mad day ahead of me, I’ll make the dough before bed and let it hang out in the fridge until supper time.
So to start with, the dough….
Basic White Dough
500g strong white flour
7g of dried yeast
Place the flour in your bowl. Pour the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water.
Use the dough hook on your mixer and slowly (to avoid kitchen devastation) combine all the ingredients. Turn the speed to medium and continue mixing until a smooth ball has formed. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes.
If you’re a wholesome, hand-mixing type, roll up your sleeves and put all your dry ingredients into the bowl. Make a well and gradually add the water, mixing as you go. When all of your ingredients are combined and a dough starts to form, lightly flour your work surface and tip out the dough. Knead the dough for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and say bye-bye bingo wings! The dough will feel smooth and elastic, and just a little bit sticky.
Drizzle some olive oil into a clean bowl, put your dough in and cover with a clean tea towel or cling film. Put it to one side and let the magic of yeast take over! The dough needs to double in size.
This takes about an hour, maybe more depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.
When your dough is nearly ready to use, crank up your oven to its highest setting. If you have one, put a pizza stone on the top shelf of your oven and let it heat up gradually with the oven.
When your dough is risen, weigh out 12 -10 blobs of dough at 80g each. Roll each blob into a ball and place on a floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour over the top and leave to rest for twenty minutes.
While the dough is resting, make the Ras el Hanout oil….
1 tsp each of cumin, coriander seed, black pepper and paprika.
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, chilli
2 tsp of dried rose petals
Dry roast and grind all of the spices.
Mix 2 tsp of Ras el Hanout with 2 tbsp of olive, 1 minced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt.
Roll out each ball of dough into an oval shape. Brush with the oil and put straight into the oven on top of the pizza stone. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges and bubbling in the middle. I prefer to bake mine two at a time, and as my work space is so small, I tend to roll them as I bake them. So while the first two are baking, I roll and shape the second two.
Spiced Tomato Soup
12 tomatoes or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
One large onion
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 chilli (optional)
1 tsp coriander seed
2 tsp each of cumin and sumac
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg
Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic and place in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook in a little oil until soft.
Add the chopped tomatoes, the spices and the chilli if you’re feeling adventurous. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. If it starts to get dry or stick, just add a little water.
Then pour over 1l of water and simmer for 30 minutes.
Using a stick blender, wazz the soup (yes, that’s the technical term) until smooth. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of sugar.
To serve, add a blob of natural yoghurt, a drizzle of left over oil from the flatbreads and a sprinkle of rose petals.