Sour Indian Tomato and Black Pepper Soup

sourtomatosouppI know what you think. I also almost never think of hot soups during the summer, but this tone is very special. First of all, as every tomato soup, is never tastes as good as when made with fresh ripe tomatoes. Secondly and above all, it is sour, the quality which for me places it among the dishes I typically crave when temperatures go up. It is also particularly light, easy and quick to prepare, three additional characteristics that make it a perfect summer soup. One of my favourite discoveries from Rick Stein’s India.

As usually, I have made some modifications, the most important one being the use of homemade chicken stock instead of water and I must say, even though it’s not a genuine Indian touch, it makes the final result even better. Make sure you check the original recipe in Rick Stein’s unique book I consider among several best cookery books.

TIP: If you think the tomato taste is not strong enough, add some tomato paste, as I did.

Asafoetida is sold powdered in every Indian shop in my city, so I guess it’s not difficult to find. It has a very strong aroma and changes the flavours considerably.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as the main course):

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 dried chilli torn into pieces (the best will be Kashmiri chilli)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

a small handful of curry leaves

4 big tomatoes

3 fresh green chillies

about 1 heaped teaspoon grated ginger

3 tablespoons red lentils

3 cm piece of tamarind block

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

salt to taste

500 ml homemade chicken/vegetable stock or water

(1 tablespoon tomato paste)

coriander leaves

1 tablespoon oil (I didn’t have the ghee, indicated in the recipe)

Chop the tomatoes. Slice the chillies diagonally.

Pour 50 ml hot water it onto the tamarind piece. Leave for fifteen minutes. (In the meantime start preparing the masala paste and the curry). After this time, mix it well and strain leaving the seeds.

Fry the first three ingredients in a tablespoon of ghee or oil  until the mustard starts popping.

Add the black pepper and asafoetida and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add the rest and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes or more (until the lentils are tender).

Sprinkle with coriander leaves just before serving.


12 Replies to “Sour Indian Tomato and Black Pepper Soup”

  1. You certainly want to make a soup like this when tomatoes are ripe and sweet from the garden. My mom used to bring them in still warm from the sun to make tomato sandwiches etc. The soup sounds delicious.

    If you can’t find asafoetida, substitute equal parts garlic and onion powder to make up the quantity needed.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. You are right, the smell is somewhere in between. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Sissi, we returned home to about 200 tomatoes in our backyard (no that is not an exaggeration but maybe an underestimation). Having never grown a tomato before, I really did not know what to expect and my gardening fears had me concerned I might not get any at all! So you can imagine my surprise and delight. So now the question is what to do with all these glorious red globes. My neighbor sent me her recipe for tomato basil soup yesterday and my husband and I have plans for a big salsa making fest this afternoon 🙂 but I dare say, your gorgeous (love the photo) Indian inspired soup is calling me name. It sounds so interesting – love the lentils too – and yes, SOUR, I know how much we love that. I will likely have to make my own subs here and there (and quadruple the quantities 😉 ) but this gives me great inspiration. Thank you Sissi! (ps. I recently discovered a recipe that calls for a heaped tsp of black pepper and I was amazed at what a difference pepper in that concentrated form can make in a dish — I was so happy with the taste that I wrote to the author just to rare about the pepper alone even though the whole dish was delicious).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly for all the compliments! I really like this soup also because it’s so quick and easy… unlike many Indian dishes. Lucky you!!!! I wish I had my own tomatoes!
      I would suggest my Indian Tomato Chutney if you have lots of tomatoes. The yield is very low, but it’s worth it even if one has to buy tomatoes! If you are afraid of preserving, you can certainly freeze it if you have space. It’s not very modest, but think it’s the best preserve I have ever invented (and one of the best ones I prepare every year). It’s one of the preserves I’m really proud of!
      Otherwise, you might consider the Big Red Book of Tomatoes. It’s a fabulous cookery book (though zero photos, but the layout is beautiful!):
      You can also dry them… or at least semi-dry (they keep for weeks in the fridge and even longer in the freezer of course:)
      I do it all year long!
      Of course you can make your own ketchup too!
      Good luck! I wish I could help you take care of your tomatoes 😉

      1. thank you so much for all of these great links Sissi! No need for modesty 😉 your Indian tomato chutney does sounds amazing. We are still swimming in tomatoes but that’s not a complaint ;-). Hope summer’s going well. Hugs, xx

  3. Sour is a good flavour to combat a lot of things, hunger being one (sometimes I eat a lemon if I’m starving and don’t want to snack, it really stops that hunger flat!). Asafoetida also has digestive properties that help with the unpleasant aftermath of eating beans! I use it every time I make a bean hummus. We do love Indian food so this recipe would be perfect for us. The colour is spectacular.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I would have never thought about asafoetida helping to digest beans or about hunger-cutting with lemons. Thank you so much for the tips!

  4. And here I thought I had seen all the different possibilities for a tomato soup! NOT! What an unusual tomato soup! I love the rich red color and the flavors from the black mustard seeds (which I need to get!), the curry leaves, and the chiles, all mixed together sounds downright awesome! I’m not a big fan of lentils but with only 2 T. it appears that you have added those more as a thickener than anything else. The soup looks awesome Sissi!!!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ, for all the compliments. It’s incredible but last year I had problems to find “normal” white/yellow mustard seeds! All the Asian shops carried black ones and normal supermarkets don’t sell mustard seeds here… (at least I haven’t seen). I finally found a shop selling spices from all around the world in bulk… Here the red lentils are used as a thickener, so you can skip them or use anything you like instead to thicken the soup. (Red lentils always fall into pieces instantly and I feel they have very little taste… so maybe you wouldn’t mind them here).

  5. Although it is crazy hot here and soup is not the first thing that comes to my mind when I am hungry, for obvious reasons, this one as I see it looks so tempting and delicious Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. It’s very hot here too… but this soup (thanks to its acidity) is really a nice summer dish.

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