Smoked Tomato Soup

This morning I was set the task of trying to make something like the Smoked Tomato Soup I ate in Camp & Furnace on Monday night.

We don’t have a smoker but we have the second best thing which is a kettle barbeque. There were still some coals left in the bottom of it from last weekend. Before I went shopping I raked this up into a neat pile and set them alight. The lid went on and I took myself down to Birkenhead.

For the first time in what seems a long time I went to Wards and bought myself a selection of fish for a stew this evening. They had a big bundle of razor clams so I bought four of those. I have not cooked them before but I can remember eating thirty-five years ago on a family holiday in Menorca. They came as part of a paella great pieces of fishy rubber bands. I think that holiday may have been the first time I ate lobster.

I then went on to the grocers. There was some talk on what I had cooked last weekend and if things had gone okay. They bags of old tomatoes going for 50p each. I bought two of those and a selection of other tomatoes.

Back home the barbeque was giving off a good solid heat. I chopped up the larger tomatoes and then tipped them all into a large metal roasting dish. There was a sad red pepper in the fruit basket so that went in as well with some chopped onion and garlic and tarragon. I then stirred in a good glass full of olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

The roasting dish then went onto the rack of the barbeque. I tore a few handfuls of sage leaves from the nearby bush, put the lid on and left it.

After an hour the tomatoes were soft and giving of their juices.

They all went through the mouli and then through a sieve until I ended up with a thick smooth liquid.

We ate the soup with chunks of bread still going strong from last weekend. There was a smoky background to the taste.

Listening to Isaac Hayes and White Denim.


Somewhere I have a record by Pussy Galore which is called SugarShitSharp.

That just about describes how White Denim were in The East Village Arts Club last night.

I had bought too many tickets and wasn’t able to get rid of them all but that didn’t matter because whatever money had been paid over would have been worth it. They were one of those bands where straight after they have finished you start thinking when am I go to be able to see them again?

They followed the golden rule of all good concerts and there was no changing round of guitars despite all of the guitar solos that appeared to be played either inside out or back to front and the bassist stood stock still throughout.

They were so good I bought two t-shirts.

Rain & thunder in Camp & Furnace

A cat has just come back into the house looking every inch the drowned rat. It was Tom and there was nothing about him to suggest that he could see out the irony in the situation.

We went for a walk this afternoon on the footpath that runs above the marshes beyond Parkgate. It was warm with a warm wind although the sun was hardly out. As we walked towards Caldy the sky was flat and grey ahead of us rising in a great sheet as if gathering itself up for the storms ahead.

We saw our first swallows of the year and there was a sense of summer in the air.

That sense of weather to come came into full bloom over the evening. We went to eat at Camp & Furnace buoyed by a good review by Jay Raynor in yesterday’s Observer.

He got it about right. Half of the pleasure of being there is the space itself. I can remember walking through the old warehouses years ago when it housed an art exhibit that must of been part of a Liverpool Biennial. The art may even have been the place itself and the discarded pieces of iron and machinery that had been left behind by progress.

Jay Raynor had had the smoked tomato soup with crab on toast so I had it too. It was very good and I found myself trying to work out how I would make it at home. I could put some trays of tomatoes in the barbeque and leave them to cook down over an hour or so and then scoop them out and squeeze them out with their juices.

After that it was a steak sandwich; pieces of rump steak mixed up with a red onion marmalade between two pieces of toasted sour dough bread that crunched properly as you bit through it. There was a small tin cup filled with crispy and hot French Fries as well.

As we ate the sky must have welled up outside and then the rain came down. There were flashes of lightening and then the heavy sound of thunder overhead. The lightening became brighter and suddenly there were people running behind us muttering about bad leaks. We could hear the rain now louder than the thunder on the roof above us.

As we drove home we could see forks of lightening criss-crossing the Liverpool skyline.

Cooking for the weekend

There was quite a lot of cooking done over the weekend. So much in fact that I had to spend Friday at home to make a start on it.

Friday started with me picking up a barrel of beer from The Peerless Brewery in Birkenhead. With that in the back of the car I went onto the Grocers to pick up boxes of cherries and figs, aubergines, cucumbers, four or five different types of tomato, including some small Italian green tomatoes, which were the best tasting, onions and aubergines, beetroot and a great hulk of a watermelon.

It was then onto The International Store for long thin green peppers, bottles of chickpeas, pistachios, ground almonds and lamb chops.

Back home I put two bags of mograbiah in a large bowl of water to soak, the beetroot went into a pan of water and was brought up to the boil and then I started on making five caramelized garlic and goat’s cheese tarts. I cheated by using ready rolled pastry. I could get two of the tart cases into the oven at the same time. Whilst they cooked I started on the most boring part of the whole exercised which involved peeling fifteen bulbs of garlic.

Like any good man I love garlic but I find myself getting irritated if I have to peel more than a few cloves. Either the papery skins won’t come off properly or they end up stuck to my fingers which have got sticky with the garlic. If there are about 12 cloves to a bulb of garlic I must have peeled at least 180. By the time I had finished the tart cases were done and I could start cooking the garlic.

This involved blanching it in boiling water for five minutes, straining them off (keeping the water), frying then in olive oil until they had just started to take on colour and then adding balsamic vinegar, sugar and more water and cooking it down to a tart syrup.

The pieces of garlic and their syrup was then scattered amongst the tart cases along with a mixture of hard and soft goat’s cheese and then covered with a custard of whisked eggs and cream. There was then another rota to get them all cooked.

I drank the water strained from the garlic to fortify myself for the rest of the cooking. This included halving a box of plum tomatoes that went to roast in the bottom of the oven covered with more balsamic vinegar and sugar; cooking a bag of Puy lentils; putting the cooked beetroot through the Magimix with some olive oil and a slightly bedraggled horseradish root I found at the back of the fridge; putting tins of chickpeas through the same Magimix to make hummus; roasting aubergines and making a chickpea salad.

As we got to the end of the afternoon I started on the three spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cakes. As I was making it I realised I didn’t have a bowl big enough to contain all the mixture and so I transferred it to an old washing up bowl that was lurking in the basement. Making the cake second time round there was no getting round the fact that the mixture looked like something nasty you might see on the pavement late on a Saturday night.

Once all the food was done it went into the basement to rest and we ate most of it up on the Saturday night washed down with the Peerless Ale and lashings of wine.

Listening now to Sufjan Stephens singing Impossible Soul – all 21 minutes of it.