white tomato essence soup

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This is more of a broth than a soup, it’s completely exquisite and made from the concentrated essence of tomatoes.

The idea to make this has been on my mind since I tasted something similar at The Upper Eastside Hotel launch of their rooftop herb garden a few weeks ago. The hotels executive chef Simon Kemp included a white tomato soup in his winter menu and it was one of the most intriguing and stand-out delicious things I have eaten in a while. I couldn’t believe that something so white could taste so intensely of tomatoes and that I was actually loving the taste of it. Tomato soup is my least favourite soup. After some subtle interrogation, Simon wouldn’t budge on the recipe, so I turned to my foodie friends on Twitter for help.

I established that white tomato soup is made from tomato essence (hence the absence of the red) and that Raymond Blanc has a legendary recipe to make it. Thank you, Michael.

My friend Tandy sent me the recipe from Raymond Blanc’s book – A Taste of My Life, and I also hit Google for further research. I found a plethora of tomato essence recipes, all seeming to originate from Mr Blanc, but one was quite different from the next. So I mixed the recipe from the book with a few online versions.

It is important to note that regrettably in South Africa we have fairly poor quality tomatoes, so as a way to combat this I always like to ripen mine for a good few days to a week in a sunny spot in my kitchen to concentrate their flavour. A few of the recipes I found online called for cherry/baby tomatoes as the flavour is more intense. I think to use the best tomatoes you can find, small or large and ensure that they are at their ripest.

Tomato Essence

This makes around 500ml – 2 cups

  • 2 kgs of ripe tomatoes – quartered
  • 1/2 a small fennel bulb sliced
  • 1/2 a small white onion sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic sliced
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 t sea salt
  • 6 drops (or so) Tabasco
  • 6 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t dried tarragon
  • 10 basil leaves torn

Mix all of the above in a big bowl. Scoop into a food processor and pulse 3 times for about 2 seconds each until the ingredients are very lightly broken up. Do this in batches (I did three). Return to the bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for about 6 hours (I went a bit longer). Place the mix in a double muslin cloth, tie with string and suspend this over a bowl overnight. Do not squeeze the cloth, simply allow the liquid to drip out.

What you will discover is a bowl full of slightly golden clear liquid. This is the essence. A bit of the red from the tomato skin cells seeped through, but it settled at the bottom. You could probably strain this through coffee filter paper if you wanted to get it 100% clear.

I wanted to maintain the integrity of this incredibly concentrated tomato juice, so simply I heated it in a pot and added cream. I used 4 T (60ml) of cream to 1 cup of the essence and then allowed it to cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes. I didn’t want to add anything to it, because all the flavour from the fennel, onion, garlic and basil had subtly infused into the liquid. You could add more or less cream, depending on taste preference.

The soup didn’t really thicken and has more of a broth consistency. I will need to do further exploration into ways to make a thicker soup without altering any of the taste. I image potatoes might work well. I garnished with just a light smattering of freshly ground white pepper and a few baby basil leaves.

This is truly a revolutionary recipe for me and just the starting point for so many further ideas. The essence will make a sensational stock for a risotto and work beautifully as a broth to poach fish in. You could add coconut cream and coriander to give it an Asian flavour profile. The possibilities are endless. One thing is for sure, I will be making this again and again in the future.

As a person that hates to waste food, I wanted to use the leftover tomato and vegetables in the muslin cloth. The obvious thought was a tomato soup.

I chopped up the other half of the fennel bulb and onion, with a finely chopped carrot and celery stalk and browned this in a splash of olive oil. I always think that mirrepoix is so important in a soup. I added the tomato mix, 4 cups of vegetable stock and cooked this for about 35 minutes over a low simmer. I allowed it to cool and then processed it with my hand-held immersion blender until it was as smooth as it was going to go.

Return the soup to the heat, add cream and bring it to just below boiling point, stirring all the time.  Garnish with a swirl of cream and chopped herbs. Fennel or basil leaves will work well.


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  1. Wow. Just wow! Tomato soup is my favourite, and one day when I’m big and brave, I am definitely trying this essence thing. Sounds AMAZING!

  2. HI Jess,this is the most intense tomato taste you can get and relatively easy to make. You just need a bit of time.

  3. Hi Sam.
    This one sound delicious! I will try it 🙂
    Just a note for newbie cooks/gardeners that might be reading this. Tomato stalks and leaves are toxic and should be used very sparingly or not at all.

  4. I love this recipe! Tried something similar at the French kitchen in Napa Valley once, and I can still remember the delicate taste. They served it as a cold soup and it was truly memorable. I will definitely give this a try!

  5. Hi Shan, thanks for pointing that out and I will remove the suggestion. I wasn’t aware of this myself.

  6. Sam, the tomato essence soup looks exquisite! What a special idea. Using the essence to poach fish in is inspiring…. got to try this!

  7. Wow, Sam, this sounds absolutely wonderful!! Tomato soup is one of my favourites and I am sure this essence soup must have a very intense tomato flavour. The second soup also looks delicious!

  8. Hi Zirkie, I think yo could keep it raw and serve it cold too, or cool lightly as a consomme or even make it into a jelly.

  9. To thicken soup try arrowroot or Japanese kuzu (also has good nutritional properties and tasteless)

  10. Hi Sam,
    I saw Raymond Blanc’s demo re tomato essence on the tele so I decided to give it a try. I also then wanted to use the chopped tomato and came across your attemp at making a tomato soup online. It’s on the hob as I write. I thought i would add a homemade seafood stock to it, kinda tomato seafood bisque! however i need your advice. I am considering making a cold white tomato soup in shot glasses as part of a starter but I want to top it with a foam, like a cuppacino. Any ideas please?
    Hope you’re keeping well
    Ethelene (Sam Pugh’s Mom)

  11. Hi Ethelene, I think you would battle to keep your soup white if you made it a seafood tomato bisque. I would also not mess with the ‘liquid gold’ that is tomato essence. As you can see from my post I just made the tomato essence into a white soup, such simple and clear flavours. All that would be lost in a fish soup. It could still be nice, but you wouldn’t get the pure tomato flavor, which is the point of the recipe 🙂
    To make a foamy top, you would need a coffee milk frother (small gadget with battery and whizzing thingy) – if you frothed some mil and spooned this on top it would be lovely.
    I think I replied to late, so sorry.
    Sam x

  12. In a 5 star restaurant I have woked we finished this soup with a little bit of truffle oil! Pls try it if you are making this soup, its amazing.
    Regards from the Netherlands.

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