The Last of the Summer Tomatoes

The first September rain in Athens was marked by torrential downpour. It was punctuated with claps of rumbling thunder and sudden bursts of lightening. Very dramatic!  I was told that this time of year, it is difficult to predict the weather – sudden meteorological changes are common and programmes for outdoor events must always be accompanied by a Plan B. Despite the potential disruption to our own pending events, it was a welcome change from very hot to cooler weather. Summer, indeed, was coming to a close. Also it brought home to me that the last of the tasty tomatoes ripened under the hot summer sun were also near an end.

On that first cool rainy end-of-summer day, I made one of my favourite seasonal soups from the River Cafe Cookbook by Ruth Rogers and Rose Grey, the book under review by The Cookbook Guru for the months of September and October. It relies on those sun ripened tomatoes.


Pappa al Pomodoro
So simple. It relies on prime ingredients. However, the recipe in The River Cafe Cookbook is designed to serve 10 – more restaurant proportions. Here I have cut the quantities down so that it serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a starter. I have also altered the prep a bit (i.e. not seeding the tomatoes and not cutting the crust from the bread) and added optional grated Parmesan at the end.

  • 4 Tablespoons + extra olive oil (the greener the better)
  • 1 kilo ripe summer tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • 200ml water
  • salt and pepper
  • the end of a week old sourdough bread loaf (approximately 8 to 9g)
  • bunch of basil
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

First, remove the skin from the tomatoes. To do this, first bring a pot of water to a boil – with enough water to cover the tomatoes. Then cut around the core and score a cross in the bottom of the tomato. Turn the pot of water off the heat and place the tomatoes in it for a few minutes, until the skin begins to come away.


Carefully remove the hot tomatoes from the water, one at a time. The skins should peel away easily, using a paring knife. You can save the “waste” – the skins and cores. I was recently intrigued by methods to use the normally discarded cores and skins to make sauce or to dry to make a tomato powder. Roughly cut the tomatoes and put into a bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the 4 Tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Chop the garlic and fry this in the oil until it just begins to turn colour. Be vigilant as garlic can burn quite quickly once it has browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and turn down the heat. Let this simmer for about 30 minutes to concentrate the tomatoes.

Meanwhile rip the bread into pieces. Add the water to the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly and when it has begun to bubble, add the bread. You may need to adjust the consistency by adding a bit more water as the bread absorbs the liquid. The soup should, however, not be too liquid. Turn off the heat and add the chopped/shredded basil. Naturally, I used the smaller (and more pungent) Greek basil, but I expect they use the sweet large leaf Italian basil at River Cafe.


Stir and let it sit for a few minutes before serving – drizzled with more olive oil and optionally sprinkled with grated Parmesan.



  1. My tomatoes are still in full production so I’m always looking for new ideas – this looks a winner. Not so sure about the tomato powder though πŸ™‚ I fear this may be one of those things that sit on the shelf because I don’t know what to do with it.

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    • I agree re. the tomato powder! It was just an interesting idea. Did try the sauce making. Worked well, but I think it is only useful if you are skinning a lot of tomatoes at one time. However, the soup is definitely a winner.


    • Too true. It is an absolute must to have the best summer tomatoes – ripe from the hot sun. After all, the recipe is essentially flavoured tomatoes with a bit of bread! Sounds basic, but when the ingredients are combined, it is sublime.


  2. Ahhh, I love that cookbook KW and need to go search it out again. The poppy red of these tomatoes is incredibly eye catching. I am excited by summer. Thanks.


  3. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    Debi at My Kitchen Witch has shared with a fabulous recipe of fresh juice tomato soup that is perfect for this time of year with us in the Southern Hemisphere going into the warmer and fresh tomato month’s, and just catching the end of the season for those of you north of the equator. Make sure you check out this post.

    Happy Reading and Happy Cooking,



  4. yum! I’ve got the tomato seeds in the garden and sprouts starting so this recipe is going to be book marked for when they mature into beautiful fruit (fingers crossed) πŸ™‚


    • Even though it is the end of the season here and autumn/winter is to come, I am already planning what tomato seeds to sow. It really is a great soup. It benefits by being simple to make, flavourful, and also uses up those pesky ends of sourdough bread. I’m cheering your seedlings on!

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