As soon as the September chill arrives in the air, I immediately crave soup.
During the summer months, I'm a salad girl. In the springtime I crave new, tender greens.
But in the autumn? It's all soup, all the time.
When I first moved to Ireland, I worked for a small food company. I can remember when the realisation first set in: Ireland does soup differently than Canada.
Actually, it started even before then - the first time I made a Christmas dinner for my in-laws. I was surprised to learn that soup is a common feature at an Irish Christmas dinner, in the form of a starter.
When I was told we were to start the meal with a bowl of soup, I made a broth and added in finely diced vegetables and some shredded chicken. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy - it wasn't a blended soup! What kind of soup-maker was I, anyway?
Then, at the small food business, I was making soup and needed to use some broccoli - so I announced I was making a broccoli and cheddar soup. My boss tried the soup and looked at me like I was crazy.
"What did you thicken this with?"
"A roux," I responded. It's common in North America to make a broccoli soup with a roux of flour and butter, to thicken it.
"We don't do that here," my boss responded, "next time, just add a potato and puree."
So I slowly learned to puree all of my soups. I do love a good Irish soup, in fairness. But aside from the broccoli and cheese soup, I have to say that my all-time favourite is tomato soup with grilled cheese (or a cheese toastie) to dip in.
Tomato soup and cheddar cheese are just best friends.
I made this rich tomato soup this week, but instead of making sandwiches, I made cheesy croutons. I used some day-old sourdough, drizzled with oil and baked until crunchy, then added shredded cheese and baked for another few minutes.
The croutons are perfect - the cheese melts on the bread but crisps up around the edges; making things extra-flavourful.
It comes together quickly enough for a weeknight dinner and is fairly kid-friendly, which is always a bonus.
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large red onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp each dried rosemary, basil and oregano
500g tomato passata
1L hot vegetable or chicken stock (a cube is fine here)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
For the croutons:
3-4 thick slices of bread (I used sourdough but you can use any kind of bread), cubed
1 Tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
200g grated mature cheddar cheese
1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter into the oil over medium heat.
2 Add the diced onion and carrot. Cook slowly, stirring often, for around five minutes.
3 Add the minced garlic and dried herbs. Cook for an additional one to two minutes.
4 Add the tomato passata and stir through. Add the hot stock and bring to a simmer.
5 Cover and cook the soup for 20 minutes.
6 Remove the cover and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes. The soup should thicken and reduce slightly.
7 Using a hand blender, completely blend the soup to a smooth puree. Season with salt and pepper and return to the stovetop. Turn the heat down to low to keep the soup warm.
8 Make the croutons: preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
9 Slice the bread into large cubes and arrange on the lined baking tray.
10 Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss the croutons to ensure they're coated with oil and bake for 10 minutes.
11 While the croutons are baking, grate the cheddar cheese.
12 Remove the croutons from the oven and scatter the cheese all over them. Add back to the hot oven for another five minutes.
13 Remove the croutons from the oven. Add the soup to warmed bowls and top generously with croutons. Eat immediately.
*You can make this soup up to two or three nights before you plan to eat it or you can freeze the soup for up to three months. The croutons are best made right before serving.