Most people in America associate Indian food with either tandoori meats or spicy curries. They are familiar with just one kind of Indian food and don’t realize that there is immense regional variation in flavors and ingredients. I find that except a handful of Indian restaurants in the US, most have very limited flavor profiles – thereby they tend to use the same masala/base sauce in the majority of their dishes – which makes Indian food very monotonous and monochromatic in spectrum. I especially dislike the buffet style restaurants because they have a wide array of saucy dishes that are loaded with food coloring but all of them taste very similar. It always gives me immense pleasure when I travel to India with my non-Indian friends and they discover the subtlety in Indian cuisine and how the taste of the ingredients is not overpowered by the excessive use of spices and the onion-tomato-based sauces. Indian food in the US is mostly what Indians call Mughlai food (pre-dominantly North Indian) but very few restaurants here utilize the delicate flavors of South Indian cuisine. Sometimes, I get intense cravings for South-Indian food but most of the South Indian restaurants here pale in comparison with their counter-parts in India. So then I have to resort to making my own South-Indian dishes (and being a total Northerner/Punjabi, these don’t come to me very naturally) or I adapt their flavors to other standard recipes. This tomato soup came out of one such endeavor where I adapted some south-Indian flavors to integrate with a standard cream of tomato soup. To my surprise this worked out real well
1. One large sweet white onion
2. One clove of garlic
3. One cup of chopped fresh tomatoes (fully ripe ones would work best)
4. One can of chopped (no salt) tomato
5. Two cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock (for the vegetarian version of this soup)
6. 3 teaspoons of black mustard seeds
7. 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
8. 2 tablespoons of sugar
9. ½ cup of light cream
10. 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
11. 1 teaspoon of finely ground chili powder
12. One sprig of fresh curry leaves (available at all South Asian grocery stores)
1. Peel and dice the onion in small pieces.
2. Peel and dice the garlic clove.
3. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it
7. Add salt, sugar, and red chili powder to the pot and also add the stock and continue cooking till the contents come to a boil.
8. Using a blender, grind the contents of the pot to a creamy consistency.
12. In a second sauce pan, add the remaining olive oil and heat it.
13. While the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds to the oil and cook them till you hear the seeds start to sputter and jump out of the pot.
14. Pour the hot oil and mustard seeds to the pot with the soup and stir again.
15. Serve the soup while it is still hot, with an extra sprinkling of olive oil on top and with a crusty bread or toasted bagel on the side.