When I arrived in India, I was eight months pregnant and suffering badly from a pregnancy related aversion to garlic and onions. Not only could I not tolerate them in my food, I couldn’t even bear to be around people who had eaten them and could 100% tell anyone if they had eaten the offending vegetables and how long ago they had eaten them.
Enter Sattvam. A buffet restaurant where all the food was freshly cooked, vegetarian, and onion and garlic free. It was recommended to me by a neighbour, and if you’re in Bangalore I highly recommend trying it out. Cheap as chips with high quality food, great service, and air conditioning, it’s an absolute must.
Upon arrival I was served several tasty starters and tamatar ka shorba, otherwise known as tomato shorba. It was love at first taste as I savoured the thin yet satisfying aromatic spiced tomato broth, and later I was shocked to find out how easy it was to make. Not to mention the fact that it was incredibly low in calories. Later I discovered that it was commonly served with biryani, and poured over it, but to me it’s a soup first and foremost.
I returned to Sattvam at least once a week during the rest of my pregnancy and afterwards. I had never had Sattvic cuisine before and was eager to learn more about it. Sattvic food is based on ayurveda and yoga and promotes eating seasonal produce, dairy, nuts, oils, legumes and whole grains. It excludes pungent vegetables such as garlic and onion, as well as what are considered “gas-forming” vegetables.
It also totally saved my husband from me, as he was unable to give up his garlic and onion addiction for nine months, resulting in me sulking in the furthest room away from his pungent-ness (that is totally a word). We could go on family dates, as they were amazingly helpful with kids, or I remember-I-love-you-again-now-that-you-don’t-stink dates.
As someone who had been cooking for themselves since the age of fourteen (when I became vegetarian), it was an absolute revelation to me that you could have tasty vegetarian food without onions or garlic.
Now that we’re back in Spain and have returned to the Spanish system of heavier lunches and lighter dinners, we have tomato shorba at least once a week with a side of a few slices of soda bread smothered in butter, margarine, or hummus. I know it’s completely inauthentic to have shorba with soda bread, but soda bread is my definitive go-to bread for dipping in soup. Feel free to substitute with whatever bread is your go-to for soup (make it crusty – naan or chapati are not good for dipping in something so liquid). Shorba can also be ladled over rice, I love it over Indian Ambrosia’s tasty peas pulao.
It is also by far our cheapest and quickest dinner of the week and a firm family favourite suitable for winter or summer. It’s a heavily spice-dependent recipe that you don’t need expensive high quality tomatoes for, although I do recommend making sure that the tomatoes you use are quite ripe as otherwise you should add ½ tsp of sugar in order to counteract the tartness of the tomatoes.
Now that I’m no longer practically allergic to garlic and onions, I have added them in (I’m totally addicted to garlic and onions), but you could certainly leave them out. The black pepper powder adds quite a kick so I’ve kept the cayenne powder quite low, although if you (or your kids) have a very low spice tolerance you could leave it out altogether. Lots of fresh chopped coriander is an absolute must for this soup. Oh and if you can get them, use a maggi vegetarian masala cube instead of the 1/2 stock cube, they’re the bomb!
As the weather is cooler now, and non-greenhouse ripened tomatoes scarce, I add some tinned tomato to the recipe to up the flavour quotient. I have substituted all fresh tomatoes or all tinned tomatoes before depending on the season and what I had on hand and they were still really tasty. Not to mention the convenience and speed of using tinned tomatoes over chopping. But time and availability permitting, the quantities below are still the tastiest bet. This recipe freezes excellently and keeps very well in the fridge, for at least five days, so I frequently double it up and have it for lunch at work as well.
Prep Time 2 minutesCook Time 13 minutesTotal Time 15 minutes
- 450 g tomatoes
- 150 g tinned tomato puree
- 100 g onion
- 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 cardamom
- 4 large cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch finely grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne
- ¾ tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
- 1000 ml water
- 1/2 Veg stock cube
- ½ tsp Sugar, optional
- 2 tbs chopped coriander
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and onion and add them to your blender. Blend them up good....Add in the tinned tomatoes if using, and blend again. If tomatoes are out of season or you don't have any, substitute and use all tinned tomatoes and blend with the onion.
- Get out your frying pan and heat the oil at a medium - high temperature. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and cardamom.When the cumin start to sizzle and darken (but don’t let them darken too much - black burnt cumin seeds are very bitter), add the crushed garlic and grated ginger.
- It’s super unscientific but sniff the cooking aroma and when the raw or uncooked smell of the garlic goes away, add the pureed tomatoes and onion. Stir quickly to avoid spattering unless you love scrubbing the back-splash after every meal.
- Turn down the heat to medium and simmer for two minutes, stirring just enough to avoid those apocalyptic bursts of backsplash and clothes staining tomato bombs.
- Add all the remaining spices (turmeric, cayenne, coriander powder, garam masala, black pepper powder) and mix very well.
- Add the water and crumble the stock cube in and mix mix mix!
- Turn the heat down to low-medium and simmer for five minutes and then add salt. I usually add half a teaspoon but I have a low salt tolerance so check after adding and see if you need to add more. It also depends on how salty your stock cube is.
- Turn off the hob/induction/vitroceramic/flames of hell, and let it coast along simmering for a further five minutes. Now is the time to add the sugar. If you used all ripe-tomatoes, you won't need any. If you used any tinned tomatoes, add at least half a teaspoon.
- Take off the heat and chuck in the chopped coriander. It takes at least ten minutes to be cool enough to eat. Then enjoy the heck out of it.