This is my brother and I, circa 1975. We are standing in front of my Aunt and Uncle's pale blue Volkswagen Camper Van. It is probably mid-summer which is why we are wearing the essential English holiday attire of a thick arran sweater, shorts and wellington boots. In the background my Aunt is stirring a tin of tomato soup over the VW gas stove. Everyone should have a tomato soup memory. My aunt and uncle were responsible for providing me with a whole album full. I would visit them during the school holidays. Maybe children remember things in a different way to adults but I can recall the smell of my aunt's house; a combination of cooking gas and Imperial Leather soap. They had exciting things that we didn't have at home. Things like an Edwardian Pianola, variety packs of breakfast cereals but best of all, the VW Camper Van. When I wasn’t clinging onto the sides of the piano stool, frantically pedaling my way through “The Toreador”, my Aunt and Uncle would drive us round Britain sightseeing in this van. And wherever we were, the routine was the same. I loved the fact that it was the same every time.
Inside the van there were secret shelves and drawers. The formica top in front of my seat would lift up to reveal a little chrome sink with a tap that you pumped up and down to make the water flow. Even more exciting was the Calor Gas Stove. Wherever we were, my Aunt would unpack marmite sandwiches and heat up a tin of tomato soup. We would park in country lanes, on hard shoulders and at stately homes. One day my Aunt drove us into the centre of London to visit the Science Museum. The camper van was parked up right in front of the museum in Exhibition Road. The little gas stove was ignired, the obligatory tin of tomato soup opened. We sat in a row, my brother, my Aunt and me, the slide doors of the van wide open as all the tourists filed past into the museum.
Creamy Tomato Soup
900g ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp of tomato paste
1 medium sized potato, peeled
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of ground paprika
725 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
200ml single cream or half-fat cream
Salt and pepper to season
Boil a large pan of water. Add the whole tomatoes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes. The skins of the tomatoes will split. Drain them and peel off the skins. Chop the skinned tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a large pan on a medium-low heat. Peel and finely dice the potato. Add the finely chopped onion, potato and crushed garlic and sauté for 3 minutes until the onion and potato is softened. Don’t allow it to burn. Add the ground paprika, tomatoes, tomato purée, caster sugar and stock. Bring to the boil, stirring well. Then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and using a wooden spoon, smooth the soup through a sieve. If you prefer, puree in a food processor. Return to the pan and add the cream, stirring over a low heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.