Tomato, Cilantro, and Semolina Soup

Have you ever used your finger to wipe a bowl of cake batter clean? How about cookie dough? I know, who hasn’t? But…have you ever used it to wipe every possible last remnant from a giant pot of soup? I hadn’t, before today. You probably have not either, but prepare yourself, because you are about to.

Soup Garnished

I should have expected this, given that this recipe comes from Ottolenghi. Ever since I stumbled upon his cafe in London last year, and his cookbook shortly thereafter, I have only been pleasantly surprised and inspired by his vegetarian recipes. Where others would add cream or a mountain of spices for more flavor, Ottolenghi finds ways to keep the ingredients list simple while letting each simultaneously shine in its own right and meld perfectly with the others.


In this recipe, the dominant flavors are of tomato, cilantro, and lemon, but this soup is so much more. It is thick and hearty–the ultimate in comfort food without making you feel like you need to hit the gym and seriously revisit your New Year’s Resolutions if you want a second serving. So, go ahead, have a another portion or two, and don’t be afraid to lick the bowl clean.

Before Tomatoes

Tomato, Cilantro, and Semolina Soup

From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes 5-6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 3/4 teaspoons sweet paprika

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/3 pounds tomatoes, peeled and chopped

6 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup semolina

salt and pepper, to taste (I found myself adding a generous amount of each, so don’t be afraid to pile it on.)

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

sour cream, for garnish

cilantro, for garnish (you’ll want lots)

After Tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, cilantro, thyme, cumin, coriander, and paprika. Saute on medium heat for a few minutes, until the onions are golden and have softened.

Onion and Spice

Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute or two.

Tomato Pastey

Add the tomatoes and a generous amount of salt and pepper and let cook for a few more minutes. Add the water and sugar, stir, and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce it to a simmer and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Pre Semolina

After 20 minutes, slowly pour the semolina into the soup, whisking constantly, to prevent the semolina from clumping together. Cook for another 10 minutes, whisking frequently to prevent clumping.

Soup with Semolina

Finally, add the lemon juice, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with some sour cream and plenty of cilantro.


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