Since I became an independent adult, and thus not at the mercy of my parents' ideas about food and nutrition, I like to think that I've enjoyed a very healthy diet, and the more so since The Ragazzi became my family. Which has meant home-grown vegetables, as much as my modest little garden plot would produce, and actually, it produced quite a lot, especially French beans and lettuces, and as much organic produce as I could find and afford, all turned into home-cooked, home-baked, home-preserved food.
I'm no paragon, of course, please don't think I am claiming to be, I enjoy chocolate and crisps and other 'non-food' treats, especially in times of stress, which is ironic since that's precisely when a good, healthy diet is important, but there you are. A long time evolving to what we Homo sapiens are now and the too-rapid rate of technological changes that we have created, means that our bodies often mistake emotional/work-related/environmental stresses for real physical threats and so we are prone to piling on the pounds to protect ourselves against future famine, cold seasons, physical injuries etc.
Where was I?
Oh yes, eating a healthy diet and food as medicine.
I've just returned from Brittany where, in response to my attempt to give a friend in the village a small gift of a few locally-collected walnuts, a coffee and walnut cake and a bottle of 'walnut wine' to express my gratitude for his help with a rampant rambling rose, he responded (when my back was turned) by returning my carrier bag filled with tomatoes. And not just any tomatoes but orange, green, yellow and red varieties of tomatoes. Organically-grown in his own garden.
So today, having overdone my organic vegetable order, and needing to find room in the fridge for the fresh produce, I thought that a nice pepper, tomato and chilli soup would be just the thing. Easy, tasty and packed-full of goodness.
Such a simple soup to make, especially if you take shortcuts, as I do.
Three red, orange or yellow peppers
Six large and ripe tomatoes
Two red chillis sliced in half and seeds removed (maybe use one if you are not a chilli fanatic)
Three garlic cloves
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place them skin side up in a large roasting tin and drizzle with the olive oil. Slice the chillis, remove the seeds and add to the tin with the unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes.
Skin the tomatoes by scoring the tops and popping them into boiling water. When the skin peels back easily cut in half and remove as many of the seeds as possible but don't stress if some remain. Pop the tomatoes in the roasting tin with the peppers and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Peel the skins from the peppers. You can do this by putting them in a plastic bag and shaking it about a bit or, if you like to get hands-on with your food, do it by manually. If the peppers are well-roasted the skins should just slide off anyway. The cloves of garlic will also pop out of their skins easily.
Put the peppers, chilli, tomatoes and garlic into a blender and whizz until smooth.
Add a little vegetable stock, sufficient to make the soup the consistency you like. Personally, I prefer mine quite thick. You can season it if you have a taste for salt. I only use salt on chips and in rice but, hey, à chacun son goût.
And then gently re-heat and sprinkle with croûtons, a little cheese, some seeds, perhaps a swirl of flavored oil, some herbs, whatever you like to fancy up your soup. Today I ate mine without further fuss because I am eager to get back to the novel that I'm reading.
Incidentally, orange-coloured fruits and vegetables contain excellent anti-cancer compounds and garlic and chillis are good immune-boosters, so this really is food as medicine.