Rich, roasted tomato soup served with the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich is comfort food personified. Add a swirl of cream and fresh basil to finish.
When I was young, I despised tomato soup. I always thought it tasted of tomato sauce, which is strange because I liked tomato sauce (ketchup) on everything. But now, I appreciate its subtle acidity and its gentle sweetness. And when served with a rich, oozy, toasted cheese sandwich, it’s simply perfection.
I call these my ultimate toasted cheese because they are by far the best I’ve tasted. They are simple with only one secret ingredient, a slow-braised onion purée flavoured with butter and white pepper. This purée mimics the texture of the melted cheese and infuses the sandwich with sweet, buttery, peppery flavour which is just to-die-for.
I’m not quite sure when I became the type of person who willingly makes a slow-braised onion purée for something as simple as a toasted cheese sandwich but I have. Maybe because I have always loved the simplest of recipes but am now motivated to make the very best ‘simple’ food I can. Also, it must be said that just because it takes long to make this glorious onion purée doesn’t mean that I’m standing in front of the oven waiting for it. I toss everything into an oven-proof dish and let it bubble away until I’m ready to purée it.
I keep this puree in a jar in the fridge and believe me when I tell you, it is a must-have. It adds the most incredible depth to any dish you add it to. Gravy, pasta, rice, stews, meat braises, sandwiches, burgers are all made better with a spoonful of this purée. Something magical happens to onion when it’s allowed to cook for a long time and this is the result. Sweet, buttery and divine.
And on this grilled cheese served with the rich, creamy tomato soup, it absolutely perfection.
- 4 tins (400g (14.11 ounces) each) whole, peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1.5l vegetable / chicken stock
- 100ml cream
- salt & pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves, to serve
- 6 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 750ml stock (I used beef)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- white pepper and salt, to taste
- 8 slices thick, white bread
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 2 cups grated mature cheddar
- To make the soup, Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- Place the tinned tomatoes and all their juices in a roasting tray and add the Balsamic, olive oil, sugar and salt. Stir to combine and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the tomatoes are broken down and have started caramelising slightly.
- In a large pot, sauté the onions in some olive oil until they are translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce and sugar. Stir to combine all the ingredients and pour in the stock.
- Lower the heat and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and blend the soup.
- Add the cream and season to taste.
- To make the puree (I do this at the same time as roasting the tomatoes), place the onions in an oven-proof dish and pour over the stock. Add the salt and sugar then cover and allow to braise for 45 minutes to an hour until the onions are soft and fragrant.
- Strain the onions (reserve the liquid to add flavour to sauces/stews) and blend with a hand blender.
- Add the butter and season to taste.
- To make the toasted cheese sandwiches, mix the mozzarella with the cheddar. Top 4 slices of bread with a tablespoon of the onion puree followed by a generous handful of the cheese.
- Close the sandwich with another slice of bread then fry in a non-stick pan, over medium heat (I add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan) until the sandwiches are golden brown and the cheese is melted and oozy.
- Serve the toasted cheese with the tomato soup.
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