I learned how to make this spicy flavourful tomato soup when I was a teenager staying at my dear friend Norah’s house in Torrance, Ontario. It was her mom Loretta’s own personal recipe and I had never tasted anything like it.
The secret to this spicy tomato soup is the infusion of a pickling spice bag. Truly a comfort food approach and is still one of my favourite hearty winter soups to whip up. Using pickling spices infuses many flavors and typically includes a blend of cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, chili peppers, cloves, black pepper, mace, and cardamom. The idea of the pickling spice ball is to just extract the seasoning, but not have the actual spices added to the soup.
Making a Pickling Spice Bag
To prepare the cheesecloth mixture, roll out a sheet of standard cooking cheesecloth to about a foot in length. Cut and fold in half. Pour the pickling spice into the middle of the cheesecloth and draw up the sides of the cheesecloth to meet in the middle making a ball at the bottom and be sure the folds are overlapping so no pickling spice can get out. Fasten tightly at the top of the ball by tying tightly with some cooking twine. You can then drop the cheesecloth and spice mixture into the soup and allow to simmer to draw out the flavours.
Do you want to learn another Pickling Spice Bag recipe? Check out my Tomato Chilli Sauce relish.
Loretta's Spicy Tomato Soup
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- dash of cayenne or to taste
- dash of chilli flakes optional
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup light cream
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 tbsp sugar or honey optional
- 1 pickling spice ball
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 or 2 fresh basil leaves
- Add butter to large-sized saucepan and melt on medium heat.
- Add onion to the saucepan and cook until slightly transparent.
- Sprinkle in flour and whisk to blend evenly with onions and butter. Season with cayenne, salt, pepper and chilli flakes and whisk evenly.
- Pour in milk gradually a cup at a time whisking continuously as it thickens. Add cream and blend with a whisk until smooth.
- When the mixture has thickened and has a smooth consistency, reduce the heat and pour in diced tomatoes. Stir to blend evenly with milk mixture. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Once cooled, blend with a hand blender directly in the pot until you reach desired smoothness.
- Return the pot to stovetop and bring soup to a low simmer. Add pickling spice ball, bay leaves and, basil and let fully immerse. Let soup simmer covered on low heat for about an hour occasionally stirring gently to infuse the spices.
- When the soup is ready to serve, remove pickling spice ball, bay leaves and basil, and serve immediately.
- When blending this spicy tomato soup I use a hand blender directly in the pot. I like to blend until mostly smooth with some small chunks of veg.
- You could also transfer to a countertop blender but with the mixture being so hot, it's a little easier to do straight in the pot.
- Before blending move the soup off the burner and allow it to cool slightly before blending. Watch your speed when blending as the mixture will be hot.
- This soup pairs nicely with freshly baked bread and salad, or homemade grilled cheese.