Hearthcraft - Tomato and Chili Soup with Herbed Drop Biscuits

Tomato soup is a kind of magick. The Greeks called tomatoes pomadora, golden apple, and associated them with the Hesperides and the golden apples of Hera. In Western Occultism, tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) have been associated with lycanthropes and witches since their introduction to Europe during the Age of Colonization. Tomatoes have been related to the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden - due to this, in Hungary, tomatoes are called paradice appfel (Apple of Paradise). Tomatoes have also been considered a powerful aphrodisiac - the French name, pomme d’amore (apple of love) and the Spanish name, poma amoris; both reflect this. Magickally, tomatoes represent love and magick. They are said to repel evil from the house. Medicinally, tomatoes contain a chemical called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain health.

Tomato soup is a good way of showing love.

This tomato soup is made with lots of fresh herbs, chili, and garlic and served with buttery herbed buttermilk drop biscuits. If you’d like to skip all the TL:DR of the steps below, which are accompanied with the medicinal and magickal associations for all the ingredients, and go straight to the recipe, click here.

First, I gather my herbs. It was a lovely day for it - cloudy and cool, with rolling thunder in the background. It rained while we ate our soup - soup and rainy days just go together.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) magickally promotes peace and calm. Medicinally, it has antiseptic, antispasmodic, and analgesic properties, as well as benefits for emotional and mental health from its soothing properties.

Italian flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) is used to sweeten the breath and the palette. Magickally, it is associated with honor and rebirth. This variety is higher in essential oils than curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum). Medicinally, it is used to stimulate appetite and to soothe infections and small wounds. I would not recommend substituting curly parsley in its place in this recipe.

Greek columnar basil (Ocimum basilicum) has a bright, spicy, almost cinnamon-like flavor. Magickally, basil is associated with prosperity and love. Medicinally, Greek columnar basil calms the stomach and relieves spasms in the digestive tract.

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodus) has a citrusy flavor. If lemon thyme is not available, this recipe could be made with Thymus vulgaris and a bit of citrus zest could be added to approximate the flavor. Magickally, thyme is considered a potent protective and cleansing herb, associated with bravery and rebirth. Medicinally, it is used as an antiseptic and analgesic, with strong antimicrobial properties. It is also good for respiratory health.

Green garden sage (Salvia officinalis) is associated with healing, long life, and wisdom - particularly of the “far sight” variety. Green garden sage contains the chemical compound thujone, which affects the nervous system. Medicinally, green garden sage is an anti-inflammatory herb and is beneficial to prevent respiratory ailments and infections.

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is used to ward against trouble and ill-fortune. Medicinally, rosemary is a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune booster. It also has cognitive effects, boosting memory and concentration.

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is used in teas for stress and anxiety. Magickally, it wards against sickness and strife. Medicinally, it helps with congestion and is an antiviral.

I collected some of these herbs to go into chicken stock, some into the tomato and chili soup, some to go into the biscuits, and some to go into a hot water infusion to accompany the meal.

I then wash everything thoroughly, for dirt and bugs, and because we use an all-natural pest repellent on our garden plants (insert recipe link). Then I gather the rest of the ingredients from my kitchen and set all my tools in easy reach on the kitchen work table.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Magickally, garlic wards against evil and provides strength. Medicinally, garlic is an antiinfective, antiseptic, and antiinflammatory. This recipe actually calls for garlic three different ways - simmered with the chicken stock, slow-roasted until brown and sweet, and minced fine and fresh with parsley and cheese.

My grandmother’s version of the recipe called for both chili negro (also called pasilla chili; the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper) and guajillo chili (the dried form of mirasol chili pepper), which are both from the species Capsicum annuum. These chilis contribute a sweet and smoky heat. Magickally, chilis bring potency and vitality and ward against disease. Medicinally, they reduce inflammation and fight infection. I tear them into pieces and soak then in clean water for at least an hour while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Then, I prepare my ingredients for one version of my homemade chicken stock: onions (Allium cepa), carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus), celery (Apium graveolens), and garlic. Onions, magickally, repel the spirits of bad health and disease and medicinally are potent antioxidants that reduce cholesterol levels. Carrots are grounding and connect the user with the fertile earth, as well as being an overall health tonic. Celery is flavorful in stocks, boosts concentration, and is magickally associated with mental prowess. Largely, though, I use onions and garlic and celery as a base for stock because they are delicious, and no matter how magickally potent the recipe, it also matters that it tastes good.

I give all my vegetables a rough chop. In a deep stockpot, I heat olive oil to shimmering and add anchovies for a savory umami flavor boost.

Into the pot go all the vegetables, chicken gizzards, the bones of a roasted chicken, and a handful of all the harvested herbs except for the anise hyssop, along with clean water to cover and a glug or two of your preferred vinegar to help pull the collagen from the bones. I used apple cider, and have various different vinegars for different types of recipes.

Chickens are associated with the home and chicken bones are used as magickal protection. If possible, I always put in the vital organs (liver and heart) and the spine, as this is where I believe much of the potency and life force reside, and that waste is disrespectful to the life given to feed me.

You can leave out the anchovies and chicken and make vegetable stock for a vegetarian verson of this recipe if you prefer.

While the stock simmers, I slow-roast a whole head of garlic.

Then I prepare my tomatoes, which blacken along with an entire sweet onion, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and several healthy sprinklings of fresh ground salt.

Then, I mortar and pestle my third head of garlic (having put one in the stockpot and one in the oven to roast.) It is important to smash and grind the cloves some, before chopping them for the next part of the recipe, as this releases the oils from the garlic. Then I chop together the smashed garlic, parsley, and dry, salty cheese (I chose Parmigiano-Reggiano, but Pecorino Romano or a Spanish cheese, like Manchego or Iberico, would also work). This is a kind of gremolata, though gremolata often also calls for some lemon zest.

Then I grind the pepper for this recipe. I prefer a blend of various peppercorns, both for magickal purposes (for example, prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) is said to break the effects of negative magick and black pepper (Piper nigrum) provides protection against harmful magick) and medicinal purposes (prickly ash aids blood circulation and black pepper is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory). I also like to add some green pepper, which is the unripe berries of black pepper, for its sweeter taste.

I strip and mince thyme and rosemary for the biscuits. And I move the tomatoes and onions from slow roasting in the oven to broiling, which adds additional smoky richness.

Ian then makes simple buttermilk drop biscuits with the herbs (while Lynx winds between his legs and whines for flour), using full-fat local ingredients - buttermilk and unsalted European style butter. While the tomatoes finish up blackening, and then the biscuits take their place in the oven while we finish making the soup.

All the tomatoes, onions, and juices go into the pot. Ideally, as my great-grandmother did, you’d repeat the roasting of fresh tomatoes until you had enough for the pot of soup you’re making, but I only had so many from the harvest, so I’m supplementing with a 28 ounce can of fire-roasted Muir Glen tomatoes.

I then take the chilis I soaked in water and cut them together with the roasted garlic into a chili paste. Be careful squeezing the roasted garlic out of its paper, as it can be very hot. If you don’t have access to these ingredients or don’t want to go to the trouble, you can substitute smoked Tabasco sauce or a combination of non-smoked Tabasco sauce and liquid smoke, which will accomplish a somewhat similar flavour profile.

When the biscuits are removed from the oven, they are drizzled with melted butter, so each one has a buttery crust and soft, fluffy insides.

I smash the tomatoes together and then add the chili and garlic paste to the soup, along with a drizzle of molasses, for sweetness. Then we strain the chicken stock. At this point, I put the tomato mixture into a food processor (you can also use a blender or immersion blender), though I prefer the chunkier version, because my housemates prefer a smoother soup, but you can keep it any degree of smashed or blended together that you’d like.

After the tomatoes are the level of chunky desired, I ladle in the stock. I then salt and pepper to our tastes.

Then I make the tea to accompany the meal - a combination of anise hyssop and green sage, which is sweet and licorice-like and mild. The soup would also go well with a bright and lemony white wine.

I serve with a dollop of the gremolata, a sprinkle of minced herbs, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil, accompanied by the hot herb biscuits for dipping.

We ate the soup dunking chunks of biscuits in with our hands and listening to the storm.

The Recipes

Didn’t feel like reading all of that? That’s okay, I get it. I *also* hate scrolling four pages just to get to the recipe I’m using.

The Stock

You will need:

  • A roasted chicken carcass and any spare roasted chicken bones you have saved
  • Anchovies in oil
  • Chicken gizzards, ideally including a neck, a liver, and a heart
  • Three large carrots, washed
  • Three sticks of celery, washed
  • One large sweet onion, peeled and rough chopped
  • One head of garlic, cut open
  • A large handful of herbs (I used lavender, Italian flat-leaf parsley, Greek columnar basil, lemon thyme, green garden sage, and rosemary), washed
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • A deep stockpot
  • A strainer

Instructions:

Add olive oil to the pot and heat to shimmering. Add the anchovies and chicken gizzards and cook until browned and fragrant. Add the rough chopped onion and brown until charred and becoming translucent, then add the celery, carrots, garlic, and roast chicken carcass and bones. Cover with water. Add the herbs. Add two glugs of apple cider vinegar. Add a generous sprinkle of fresh ground salt and pepper. Simmer on low until fragrant and golden, skimming off any foam that rises to the top (this does no harm to the stock, but does make the stock cloudy), for at least one hour and up to three. Do not boil, as this makes bitter stock. Strain and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

The Soup

You will need:

  • 4 pounds of fresh tomatoes or 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes and a 28 ounce can of tomatoes
  • 3 large dried chilis ((chili negro (also called pasilla chili; the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper) and guajillo chili (the dried form of mirasol chili pepper)) or smoked Tabasco sauce
  • One large sweet onion
  • One head of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • 3 to 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, depending on the desired thickness of the soup
  • Chopped fresh herbs (I used Greek columnar basil, rosemary, and lemon thyme)
  • Salt
  • Pepper (ideally black and green)
  • Prickly Ash
  • A roasting pan
  • A stockpot or Dutch oven
  • A potato smasher (or blender or food processor or immersion blender)
  • Aluminum foil

Instructions:

Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, tear the three large dried chilis into chunks and soak in cool water for at least one hour. Then, cut the top off one head of garlic and drizzle with oil, rubbing it all over and then wrapping with aluminum foil. Rough chop the sweet onion and place it and the tomatoes into the roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with fresh ground salt.

Place the aluminum wrapped garlic and the tomatoes in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the tomatoes have burst and the garlic is fragrant and soft.

Remove the garlic from the oven and place the tomatoes and garlic 4 to 6 inches from the broil and broil on high til the onions and tomatoes blacken, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and dump all of the tomatoes and onion, along with all their juices from roasting, into a stockpot or Dutch oven. If you were using 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, instead of 4 pounds of fresh tomatoes, add a 28 ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes to the pan as well. Simmer.

Strain the chilis (reserve the chili water - if you like extra spicy soup, you can add a splash of the soaking liquid into the pan with the tomatoes and onions). Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its papery skin onto the soaked chilis and chop together into a fine paste.

Add the chili paste and a drizzle of blackstrap molasses to the soup. Smash together (or run through a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender, if you want a smoother soup). Simmer together until the flavors merge, approximately a half an hour and up to all day, if the lid is kept on to prevent it from over reducing.

Add chicken stock to desired thickness and then salt and pepper to taste. Add more blackstrap molasses if it isn’t sweet enough and more chili water if it isn’t spicy enough. Serve hot with fresh chopped herbs, gremolata, a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

The Biscuits

You will need:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup of buttermilk, cold
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted high fat European butter
  • 2 additional tablespoons of unsalted high fat European butter
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme (we used lemon thyme, but Thymus officinalis also works), or substitute two tablespoons dried
  • A non-rimmed baking sheet
  • A liquid measuring cup
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Parchment paper

Instructions:

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position in the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the 8 tablespoons of unsalted European style butter and allow to cool for five minutes.

While the butter cools, whisk together the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt - in a large bowl.

Pour the cold buttermilk into the 8 tablespoons of warm melted butter and stir with a fork until the butter forms small clumps. It will look curdled. This will distribute tiny bits of butter through the biscuit dough without having to cut in cold butter.

Add the buttermilk and butter mixture and add the chopped fresh herbs to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. The batter should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a greased ¼ cup dry measuring cup, scoop a level amount of biscuit batter and drop onto the parchment. Repeat with all of the remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 and 1/2 inches apart.

Bake the biscuits until the tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Melt the last two tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the hot biscuits. Then let the biscuits cool 5 minutes before serving.

The Gremolata

You will need:

  • One head of garlic
  • A cup to a cup and ½ of Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • A cup to a cup and ½ of hard, dry, salty cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or Manchego will do nicely)
  • Olive oil
  • A mortar and pestle
  • A good knife (or a food processor)
  • The zest of one lemon (optional)

Instructions:

Remove the papery skin from the garlic and smash and grind it in a mortar and pestle until deeply fragrant and oily. Remove onto a cutting board with as much of the garlic oil as possible. Add the parsley and chop together with the knife (or place in a food processor and pulse together). Rough chop the dry, hard cheese and combine it with the paste of the garlic and parsley by chopping them together with rocking motions of the knife (or combined in a food processor). For a more traditional recipe, also add the zest of one lemon. Drizzle with olive oil and mix until the paste resembles pesto. Add to soups, french fries, bread, or antipasto salads.