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Tomato Soup with Fried Mackerel and Pesto

Featuring our Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron 24cm Round Casserole

Serves 4


This is the ultimate tomato soup and something I’ve been making for years. In fact, it’s a recipe that I learnt from my time at River Cottage when early Autumn equalled abundance in the garden. It’s a time for preserving and fermenting and batch-cooking the best the season has to offer. This soup is made by roasting sweet ripe tomatoes with garlic, thyme and olive oil. The resulting purée is incredibly delicious and can be bottled for the colder winter months. In my kitchen, it never lasts long…

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 120 minutes


For the soup

2.5kg of ripe, mixed, heritage tomatoes, halved

Half a bunch of thyme

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thickly sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the pesto

30g sunflower seeds

1 small garlic clove

75g mature Cheddar or hard goat’s cheese, finely grated

Good pinch of fine sea salt

1 large handful of basil

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the mackerel

2 medium-sized fresh mackerel, filleted

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 fresh bay leaf, torn

1 clove of garlic, bashed

2 sprigs of thyme



Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C Fan/ Gas Mark 6

  1. Place the tomato halves (you can quarter really big ones) cut-side upwards into a baking dish big enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Scatter over the thyme stems and the sliced garlic, then trickle over the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the dish in the oven and roast the tomatoes for 45-60 minutes, or until they have begun to blister around their edges and are well on their way to collapsing.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Using the back of a ladle rub the tomatoes through a course sieve, extracting all that rich, thick sauce.
  4. Discard the skin and seeds left behind in the compost. Pour the tomato soup into the deep casserole and bring to a simmer. You can adjust the balance of sweetness and acidity with a dash of cider vinegar or a pinch or two of sugar. Either way, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. If the soup is too thin, you can simmer it for a little longer to thicken it.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Place a dry non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat. Add the sunflower seeds and cook, stirring regularly for a few minutes until the seeds are toasted and fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  6. Place the cooled, toasted seeds in a food processor with the garlic, cheese and salt and pulse until you have a fairly fine consistency. Throw in the basil and pulse until well chopped, then gradually add the oil. When everything is combined to a nice, even texture check the seasoning and spoon the pesto out into a bowl.
  7. When you’re ready to serve the soup, you can cook the fish. Re-heat the non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, bay leaf, thyme and bashed garlic clove, two flavours that work beautifully together when cooking mackerel.
  8. Cut the fillets in half, giving you eight small pieces. Season the mackerel lightly with salt and pepper and place the pieces, skin-side down in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the fillets are almost cooked through, then flip the fish over and switch off the heat. The fillets will finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan.
  9. Ladle the soup between 4 wide, warm bowls. Add two pieces of fish to each bowl and spoon on some pesto.
  10. Finish with a trickle of your best olive oil, a twist of black pepper and a few small basil leaves if you have them.

Cook’s Notes

  • Mackerel is a rich, oily fish with a wonderful flavour and in my opinion, one of the best fish there is for eating. It’s important that it’s super-fresh. Look out for firm, bright-eyed, silver fish and you won’t be disappointed.
  • I like to use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts in my pesto because I love the flavour they have. Hazelnuts and walnuts work well too.
  • Feel free to swap out mackerel for any fish you like. I’m a fan of seared scallops or if fish isn’t for you, some caramelised wedges of fennel go amazingly, or a pile of lemony, roasted courgettes.
  • It’s possible to reduce this tomato soup right down to an intense sauce, which you can serve alongside the mackerel or a fish of your choice.

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