By Belinda Jeffery
I know eating soup in summer can seem a strange thing to do, but I have to admit that I absolutely love this simple soup and find it makes a wonderfully light and easy meal on a hot summers night. We often eat this as a meal with warm Turkish bread on the side.
2 medium-sized eggplants (about 800g in total), halved lengthwise
1 large red onion, skin on, quartered
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 large even red capsicums (peppers), quartered and cored
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and halved
2 large cloves garlic, unpeeled but pricked with a fine skewer
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, extra
Leaves from 5 large sprigs thyme
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
About 1 litre cool water, to cover
3 teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
About ¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice, or more to taste
Garnish: finely sliced avocado, roasted red pepper strips, tiny basil leave; or, crumbled feta or goats cheese, small strips of roasted pepper and tiny lemon thyme sprigs or basil leaves.
Preheat your oven to 200C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
Put the eggplant and onion into a large bowl and mix them with 50ml of the olive oil so theyre lightly coated in it. Sit the eggplant halves, cut-side down, on one baking tray and strew the onion quarters around them.
Combine the capsicum, tomato, garlic and remaining olive oil in the bowl and mix well. Spread this mixture on the other tray, sitting the capsicum pieces skin-side up, and the tomatoes cut-side up.
Pop both trays in the oven and roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until theyre tender and wrinkled-looking. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down a bit. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel away as much skin as you can from the eggplants, onions, capsicum and tomatoes “ it may not all come away easily but most will. Gently squeeze the skins of the garlic cloves to pop out the buttery flesh. (I do all this peeling and squeezing over the trays to catch any juices from the veggies.) Set aside 3 pieces of capsicum for garnishing.
Warm the extra 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the thyme and chilli. Scrape the skinned vegetables into the pan, along with any of their juices, and stir well to coat them in the oil and herbs. Add about 1 litre of cool water (enough to cover) and 3 teaspoons of salt. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
Leave the soup to cool slightly, then puree it in batches in a blender (or use a stick blender which is much easier). Pour the soup into a large bowl, taste it, then add enough lemon juice to sharpen it slightly, and more salt if it needs it “ I find it usually does to bring out the flavours of the vegetables. Pour it into a container, cover it tightly and chill it for an hour or two. (It actually keeps really well for 5 days or so in the fridge - just let it warm up a bit at room temperature before serving it.) As cold can mute the flavour a bit, its a good idea to taste the soup again before you serve it in case it needs a bit more seasoning.
Photography by Rodney Weidland