The group of old ladies that were brought to teach me how to thread tomatoes together into a fine bunch were the funniest lot of pensioners I have ever met. They were animated, self deprecating and sarcastic in just the right quantity. I could spend hours listening to old time stories but they had to be whisked away from the scene for me to make this soup to camera. It was wonderfully sweet – the crew devoured it – and would have done me proud with my old lady friends.
2kg ripe tomatoes (about 20), peeled and roughly chopped (1.9kg net)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
6 celery stalks, pale parts and leaves, all roughly chopped (450g net)
1 small onion, roughly chopped (140g net)
400g watermelon flesh, seeds removed
100g crustless white bread, broken into small chunks
150ml tomato passata (or tomato juice)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
200ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
15g basil leaves
Coarse salt and black pepper
150g crustless white bread, broken into 2-3cm chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp red wine vinegar
- First make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the bread in a medium bowl along with the oil, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Place a griddle pan on a high heat, add the croutons and cook for 2 minutes, turning until all sides are slightly charred and starting to crispen. Transfer from the pan onto a baking tray and place in the oven for about 12 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Set aside to cool.
- Place the tomatoes, garlic, celery, onion, watermelon, bread, passata and 10 grams of basil in a blender or large bowl along with 1½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender still going, add the vinegar and olive oil. Refrigerate until needed.
- To serve, pour the soup into individual bowls and top with the croutons. Tear the remaining basil and sprinkle it on top of each portion, along with a final drizzle of oil. Finish with a little sea salt and serve at once.