Beef and tomatoes is a popular combination in many recipes but the two work especially well together in a soup, particularly when the soup is made from scratch using the beef bones to produce the stock or base. While fresh tomatoes could be used, they would ideally require peeling in the first instance so using canned tomatoes saves time, effort and possibly even money. The croutons are an optional accompaniment but do add extra visual appeal as well as texture to the finished dish and take literally only two or three minutes to prepare.

Spicy Beef and Tomato Soup with Croutons
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Spicy beef and tomato soup with croutons

Stock Ingredients

Beef Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Meaty beef bones for making stock

  • 2 pounds meaty beef bones
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Directions for Stock

Beef Bones and Stock Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beef bones and vegetables for stock

Put the beef bones in to a large stock or soup pot. Wash, trim and roughly chop the carrot and celery stick. Peel and quarter the onion. Add them to the pot along with the parsley, salt and black peppercorns.

Stock Brought to a Simmer
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Stock combination is put on to a high heat to reach a simmer

Pour five pints of cold water in to the pot and ensure all the solids are comfortably covered. Put the pot on to a high heat until the water just starts to boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer as gently as possible for three hours.

Boiled Beef Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Boiled beef bones

When the long simmering time is up, you may find that the meat, fat and gristle has separated from the bones in large pieces. Use a slotted spoon to lift all the bones and meaty pieces to a deep plate or bowl. Cover and leave to cool enough that they can be comfortably handled. Use the spoon again to remove and discard all other solids from the stock.

Straining Beef Stock
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Straining beef stock

Suspend a fine sieve over a large bowl and line it with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper. Ladle the stock in to the sieve to strain. You may need to change the kitchen paper as it becomes clogged with fat molecules.

Strained Beef Stock
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Strained beef stock

When the stock is strained, it could if you wish be refrigerated and the soup proper made the following day. The beef should also be refrigerated overnight when it has been removed from the bones if choosing this option.

Beef Removed from Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beef picked from bones

There is no real alternative for removing the beef from the bones other than to use your hands. This is largely because you also have to pick the meat free of the fat and gristle. This can be a moderately time consuming job but the results justify the means.

Soup Ingredients (Serves 6)

Canned Tomatoes
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Canned tomatoes

  • Beef stock as prepared earlier
  • 2 14 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 large, medium strength red chili
  • 1 large, medium strength green chili
  • Salt and pepper
  • Beef removed from bones
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf) or parsley, plus extra to garnish
Chilies and Celery added to Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Celery and chilies are added to beef stock and tomatoes

Pour the beef stock and tomatoes in to your clean soup pot. Top the chilies and moderately finely slice. Trim the ends from the celery sticks and slice to about half an inch. Add the chilies and the celery to the pot.

Bringing Soup to a Simmer
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Bringing soup to a simmer

Put the pot on to a high heat and stir well. When the liquid starts to simmer, reduce the heat and continue to simmer for fifteen minutes.

Blending Soup
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Preparing to blend soup

Switch the heat off and leave the soup for a minimum half hour to cool slightly. It's never a good idea to blend boiling liquids, just in case of accidental spillage. The soup will require to be blended in several batches, each batch being poured in to a temporary holding bowl when smooth.

Beef and Cilantro added to Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beef and cilantro are added to blended soup

When all of the soup has been smoothly blended, pour it carefully back in to the soup pot. Add the beef and cilantro, stir well and bring it back to simmering point. Taste the soup, adjust the seasoning as required with salt and pepper. Stir again and the soup is ready to serve.

How to Make Simple Croutons

Freshly Made Croutons
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Freshly made croutons

While croutons are very quick and easy to make, there a couple of important points you need to take in to consideration if things are not to go horribly wrong. The first of those is in choosing the type of bread you are going to use to make the croutons. Ideally, you want lightweight bread with plenty of small air pockets in it. It should also be a little bit stale to ensure it is drier. Soft, moist, dough like bread is likely to produce croutons which are too heavy to float on the top of your served soup and will immediately start to sink. The selected piece of bread should be chopped in to cubes anything from half an inch to an inch in size.

Pour plenty of olive oil in to a large, non-stick frying pan. The most important part of the process is in making sure the oil is brought up to a high heat before the bread cubes are added. They have to start toasting as soon as they hit the pan. If the oil is not hot enough, they will start to absorb it before they can be sealed and the croutons will be soggy. When the bread pieces are added, season with salt and pepper and stir them carefully around the pan with a spatula until they are all evenly crisp and golden. Lift on to some kitchen paper to drain briefly before they are scattered over the served soup with some cilantro.