The first recipe this week, for tomato and mint soup, comes from Susan M Sinnott of East Barnet, Hertfordshire. She works as a caterer and regularly adapts recipes of the Scottish restaurateurs, David and Hilary Brown, from their cookbook, La Pontiniere and Friends (Random Century, pounds 16.99). This soup is one of them. From the clever use of mint and sherry it is not hard to understand why La Pontiniere, near Edinburgh, is one of the best restaurants in Scotland.
Ms Sinnott, along with the other winners named below, will receive a hardback copy of Anna Del Conte's Entertaining all'Italiana (Bantam, pounds 15.95).
Tomato and Mint Soup
Ingredients: 2oz/60g unsalted butter
8oz/225g onions, peeled and sliced
2lb/900g absolutely ripe tomatoes, washed
3fl oz/90ml dry sherry
1tbs caster sugar
3 heaped tbs finely chopped fresh mint or 1 1/2 level tbs dried mint
6 sprigs fresh mint for garnish
6tbs lightly whipped cream
Preparation: Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add onion and cook, stirring, over a low heat until softened, but not coloured. Add whole tomatoes (with skins), sherry, sugar and mint. Stir together, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Decant the mixture to food processor and liquidise. Strain into saucepan, stir, add water to desired consistency, season with the salt. Reheat when ready to serve. Garnish each serving with mint leaves and 1tbs lightly whipped cream.
A tantalising variation on the theme comes from Adam Alexander of St Briavels, Gloucestershire. He grows fennel and uses those aromatic bulbs in lieu of onions in his tomato soup, then garnishes it with the fennel leaves.
OUR second recipe, for tomato chashni, comes from Farida Abidi in Winslow, Buckinghamshire, who says it is very common in India and Pakistan. It can be varied, she says, with coriander instead of mint and by adding crushed garlic. It is traditionally a side dish, served on rice or even as a chutney; but Ms Abidi also commends it as a sandwich spread, on pizzas or with noodles. To skin tomatoes, pour a kettle of boiling water over them, drain, let them cool a little and their skins will slip off.
Ingredients: 2lb/900g tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
6-8 dried red chillies (make sure they have firm, unbroken skins)
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp onion seeds
1-2tbs chopped mint or 2tsp dried mint
3/4tsp red chilli powder
1tsp ground turmeric
3tbs corn oil
Preparation: For the beginning of this recipe, as the acrid spices cook off, make sure you work in a well ventilated kitchen. Heat oil, add red whole chillies. When they turn dark, discard chillies and remove pan from heat; allow oil to cool. Add cumin and mustard seeds and return to heat. Add half the chopped onion and cook to a rich brown, then add turmeric and chilli powder. Stir, add 3-4tbs water and the tomatoes. Cook on a low-to-medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.
Add the remaining onion, dried mint and onion seeds. Cook on a low heat until the oil separates, the dish glistens and the consistency is similar to that of custard.
THE Italian influence, unsurprisingly, dominated our postbag. This recipe for Tuscan bean soup (and a large quantity of tomatoes) from Linda Moss of Chatham, Kent, seems just the thing for a brisk autumn day.
Tuscan Bean Soup
Ingredients: 12oz/340g dried cannellini beans
6 stalks celery
4tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pints/1 litre 135ml vegetable stock
1 level tbs fresh chopped thyme
salt and pepper
Preparation: Cover beans with cold water and soak overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and boil in covered pan for 50 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid. Puree half the beans with 1/2 pint of liquid until smooth. Chop onions and celery. Skin, quarter and deseed tomatoes, reserving juice. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, celery and garlic, and cook over a moderate heat until beginning to brown. Stir in stock, tomatoes, juices, beans, puree and thyme. Season, bring to boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
THE following recipe is rare in that it commends itself to both the slothful and the ambitious host. It is no surprise that it comes from Robert Carrier's Kitchen (Arrow, pounds 9.99); it is typical of his robust abandon to freeze a Bloody Mary and call it sorbet. I would probably stop at the cocktail and call it a day. Persist in the kitchen, however, and it becomes Iced Tomato Vodka, a palate- cleansing granita for an ambitious meal. It is submitted by Agnes Neilan of Paisley, Strathclyde.
Fresh Tomato Juice
12 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
4fl oz/120ml water
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 celery sticks
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
1tsp ground black pepper
Preparation: Place tomatoes in a saucepan, add water, onion, celery, bay leaf and parsley. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain, season and chill.
Iced Tomato Vodka
Ingredients: 10fl oz/300ml tomato juice
3fl oz/90ml vodka
juice of 2 lemons
4-6 drops Worcestershire sauce
6 crushed ice cubes
1/2 green pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced
4 celery leaves, chopped
celery salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cucumber sticks, 4in long
6 sprigs fresh mint
Preparation: Place vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and crushed ice in a blender; run at high speed until ice has nearly disintegrated. Add pepper, celery leaves, season to taste with celery salt and black pepper. Pour into a plastic tub and freeze, removing lid every 15-20 minutes to stir slightly as it sets. (Or use an ice-cream maker according to manufacturers' instructions.) Remove to fridge 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cucumber and mint.
LASTLY, it is time to lay down tomato sauce and puree for the winter. We received 30 more-or-less identical recipes from very different sources. My favourite was from Liz Flower, of Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire, who writes: 'I don't grow tomatoes but one year an avid veggie-growing friend had rampant tomatoes just before going on holiday and asked me to 'do something with them, please'.' Taught by a finicky Italian friend, she did the following:
Ingredients: 2lb/900g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped, reserving juice
3tbs olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2tbs chopped fresh basil (or oregano or thyme)
1 pint/475ml red wine
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preparation: Sweat onion and garlic in oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat, taking care not to brown. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as the liquid thickens. (Alternatively, it can be cooked in a slow oven.) Finally season, even adding a touch of sugar and/or nutmeg.
The result will be what Jeremy Round, our former food editor, once described as a 'medieval taste' - dark and deeply cooked. To retain a fresh zing, here is a recipe for puree from Kate Edwards of Runcorn, Cheshire.
Fresh Tomato Puree
Ingredients: 6lb/2kg 750g tomatoes, cored, deseeded and chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1tsp powdered bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preparation: Mix in food processor and freeze in small containers. Ms Edwards suggests: for Italian dishes, add fresh oregano, basil and thyme; for Provencal dishes, add thyme, garlic, powdered cloves and chopped onion; for Indian dishes, add chopped chillies, cumin, yoghurt and coriander; for lamb dishes, add chopped rosemary and lemon zest.
Thank you for all your fine recipes. Next week we will welcome autumn with the first of our recipes for cooking with mushrooms. Send entries, stating the source if not original, to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Those whose recipes we publish will receive two bottles of Shaw & Smith 1991 Sauvignon Blanc from Winecellars in south London.