Charred Tomato Soup
Have you read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake? There’s a movie of the same name based on the book, and there’s a sequence where the protagonist, who happens to be a second-generation Indian-American, reminisces to his teenage years when his parents would throw a house party and all their friends would come over with a dish each, and turn it into a potluck-style meal. Kids would be sent to the basement to watch cartoons and called upstairs when dinner was ready. Plastic plates and spoons were laid out on newspapers lining the basement carpet, a make-shift, mess-free tablecloth of sorts. When I first read the book, it made me ridiculously nostalgic. Those early days’ memories are filled with potluck dinners, makeshift furniture and the wonders of Supermarkets.
I have a vivid memory of my mother and her friends gathering in our kitchen and assembly-lining for hot pooris (deep-fried poufy bread of sorts) for our dinner parties. My mother would take on the rolling or the frying because those were the most tedious jobs and everyone else would take on the remaining jobs, all the while tittering and gossiping. I was the bearer responsible for carrying hot pooris to the bread basket and wiping my mother’s sweat-soaked brow with her just-pressed, now-crushed cotton Sari, and generally managing the other children.
My mother was a big soup person, especially for Poori dinner parties, because Pooris took longer when made to order. People would have some sustenance while waiting for the hot pooris to come out and were generally a huge hit. Everyone always asked my mother for her soup recipes, and she would always laugh and bask in the praise.
We never had soup leftover, ever.
Took me a while to perfect it, especially because I roast my tomatoes prior to emulsifying them and my mother didn’t, but the end result is so nourishing and soul-satisfying, you will come back for seconds. The secret is to keep it simple and let the tomatoes shine. Black pepper and a dollop of butter will do wonders in making this soup perfectly wholesome and delicious.