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.
- 2 kg ripe tomatoes (about 20), peeled and roughly chopped (1.9 kg net)
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 celery stalks, pale parts and leaves, all roughly chopped (450 g net)
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped (140 g net)
- 400 g watermelon flesh, seeds removed
- 100 g crustless white bread, broken into small chunks
- 150 ml tomato passata (or tomato juice)
- 1½ tbsp red wine vinegar
- 200 ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 15 g basil leaves
- coarse salt and black pepper
- 150 g crustless white bread, broken into 2-3 cm chunks
- 2¼ tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 30 minutes
First make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 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.
View all the recipes from Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Island Feast.