Tarragon Twosome (part one)

I hate to waste food, but find fresh herbs all too regularly end up in the compost caddy. You buy a pack of say, sage, for a recipe, use the tablespoon required and then the poor delicately scented little lamb’s ears get tossed back in the fridge, the last they hear is murmuring about how you’ll use it again. It holds out hope — surely she’s coming back for me — and then a week later it’s nestled in amongst the peelings and coffee grinds ready for composting. I’m sorry sage. I’m trying. This weekend another herb had better luck, as I chose two recipes to make on the same day that call for tarragon; a plant that would look at home swaying on the bottom of the sea.

Tarragon is a divisive flavour, and it certainly does not disappear in a dish. But I disagree with the common notion that it tastes of liquorice; based on the indisputable evidence that I detest liquorice and I like tarragon. Fennel, with its subtle sweetness, is a closer match. But trying to compare tarragon to other flavours is like trying to compare Bjork to other singers. Its taste is fascinatingly odd and unique.

I make a pot of soup once a week; love having leftover soup stored in the freezer, a little bank of future meals. Tomato soup is always satisfying but benefits from a bit of a twist to keep things interesting. Tommy's favourite playmate basil gets a time-out today. Tarragon is stepping in to shake up our senses. I even thought this soup smelled of apple pie while it was simmering, but when I said this Alex looked at me like many looked at Bjork when she wore the swan dress. I loved that dress on Bjork. And I love this soup, it looks like a classic but tastes (and smells) refreshingly different. All is full of love…

Tomato and Tarragon Soup
Adapted from: New Covent Garden Food Co. Book of Soups: New, Old and Odd Recipes

The publishers were obviously determined to give this book a personal, handmade feel: contributors faces are sketched on one of the opening pages, recipes open with a little story about their creation, and they’ve used a 'hand written' style font. The recipes are divided into whimsically named chapters like 'Wonderful', 'Unusual', and 'Fancy' (I use the index a lot). My favourite design feature is spiral binding, meaning the book lays open nice and flat. Simple pleasures.

Serves: 6

40g butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
110g carrot, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
675g fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes (ideal for when tomatoes aren't in season)
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 litre vegetable stock
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar, to your taste
1 small strip of lemon rind
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan melt the oil and butter together. Add in the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the tomatoes, tomato purée, bay leaf, tarragon, stock, sugar, and lemon rind. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Then chuck out the lemon rind and bay leaf, and purée the soup. Grind some black pepper over each serving.

Love your Leftovers: Soup freezes fantastically! Wait for it to completely cool, ladle in to airtight containers and freeze.

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