About 10 years ago I had my first culinary encounter with tomato and rice soup while visiting Caron’s grandparents and though I wasn’t (so I thought..silly me) a fan of tomato soup, the plump grains of rice in it got my attention. I could not believe I was asking for seconds even though my bowl was only half the way through. I had always reflected back to that dish, but for some reason I never ventured to ask Heddi (ma-mere) for the recipe. Somehow I’m glad I didn’t as when it came time to prepare it it this past summer when we had an abundance of vine ripe tomatoes in our garden, I decided to put my own twist on this tomato and rice soup I first fell in love with a decade ago.
Tomato choka is one of my favorite ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes, so I thought I’d mimic the same technique in making this rice and tomato soup for those rich roasted and spicy flavors. Basically, here’s my take on tomato choka soup.
3 large tomatoes
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups chicken stock (or veg)
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper
1 cup parboiled brown rice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
pinch ground coriander
* If you don’t have access to a grill as I did, toss the tomatoes in about 2 tablespoon of olive oil (not mentioned in the ingredient list) and roast them in your oven at 400 F for about 30 minutes or so. You will notice that I used chicken stock, but the recipe is posted in the vegetarian section. For vegetarians, please use vegetable stock and it will be a complete one-pot vegetarian meal.
As with making traditional tomato choka I placed the ripe tomatoes on my grill, along with a whole green scotch bonnet pepper to cook. The pepper will take about 2-3 minutes (remove), but give the tomatoes about 20-30 minutes, flipping them so they char evenly. Yes, it’s normal for them to look burnt on the outside.
Remove the tomatoes off the grill and place in a bowl to cool. They will release a lot of liquid as they cool, thus the reason for having them in a bowl so you can save this lovely liquid to add to the pot later. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the charred skin and give them a rough chop.
Heat the olive oil on a med/low flame in your soup pot and gently cook the diced onion, thyme and garlic for about 4 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes. By adding the tomato paste at this point the sort of frying will increase the natural sugars in the paste and give the dish a lovely sweetness.
Now turn up the heat and add all the other ingredients except the rice. Bring to a boil.
Wash the rice to remove any grit and extra starch. Do so by placing the rice in a strainer and run cool water over it while moving it around until the water runs clear. Or you can place the rice in a deep bowl, top with water, then massage the grains of rice. The water will get cloudy. Drain, repeat until the water runs clear. As the pot comes to a boil add the rice, then turn the heat down so you have an active simmer going.
Let it cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice grains are plump and fully cooked.
Skim off any sort of reside off the top of the pot as it cooks and discard. Remember to taste for salt and adjust accordingly. If you used a whole scotch bonnet pepper as I did, you now have 2 options. Remove it so you don’t have that ‘kick’ or burst it open to reveal that Caribbean sunshine. WARNING! It will be live!
Top with some chopped parsley and get ready to serve with a thick slice of coconut bake or bread. This is not your typical Caribbean soup which is usually thick with ground provisions and salted meats (for the most part), but I assure you that this absolutely delicious, quite filling and a great twist on traditional tomato soup and rice soup.