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Fennel Tomato Soup

We haven't yet had our first real rain but, the moment we do, all of Israel will surely head out wearing boots, jeans 'n scarves. (The fact that the temperature gauge still reads in the mid-twenties won't affect wardrobe choices at all.) The warm weather notwithstanding, days are already shorter and more blustery, and 'Soup Season' has officially opened in my home. My soup repertoire is extensive, but the recipe I make most often, is undoubtedly 'Tomato Soup With A Twist'. It's easy to understand why. Firstly, it's amazingly speedy, and you can go from zero to soup-in-a-bowl within 15 minutes. You don't even have to chop a single onion. Next, it's super economical, and uses minimal, easy-to-find ingredients. Finally, it's brimming with flavor, is low in calories, and it's extremely healthy too. A guaranteed, cooler weather winner! Before you read the ingredients list, I urge you to have an open mind about fennel, as this trendy vegetable forms the backbone of this hearty soup. While fresh fennel has a distinctive aniseed flavor when eaten raw, it tastes entirely different when cooked, and is extremely subtle and most delicious. Be bold 'n try it for's an investment of mere minutes of your time and I couldn't recommend a warmer welcome to winter.

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large bulb of fennel, roughly chopped* 2 teaspoons crushed garlic 1 large (800 gram) tin chopped tomatoes** 6 cups parve beef stock (Ina Paarman is best) 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar Salt and black pepper Grated Parmesan (optional)

1: Heat the oil and fry the fennel and garlic for 3 minutes. 2: Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, sugar, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. 3: Process till smooth and serve plain or garnish each bowl with a generous spoon of Parmesan cheese. Serves 6. COOK'S NOTES: Fennel - 'shumar' in Hebrew - is only available in autumn/winter and is shown above. You use the whole bulb including fronds. Can use 2 small bulbs instead of 1 large bulb. I often replace chopped tomatoes with 2 cans of spicy shakshuka tomatoes. Knorr parve beef cubes - 'tzlil' flavor in a purple box - can replace the Ina Paarman stock but Ina Paarman is way superior. A truly delicious soup.

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