Buying a box of broth at the supermarket feels like a soup shortcut because most people don’t have time or energy to make homemade stock. But many store-bought stocks are filled with salt and lack much real flavor.
As it turns out, you don’t need it anyway. We prefer to use water, not stock, for soups that have clearer, brighter flavor. It’s easy with the right ingredients as long as you keep a couple things in mind.
For one, make sure to brown the aromatics. Browning translates to flavor, and scraping up those browned bits when you add the water to the pot releases flavor into the soup.
And two, don’t be afraid to use spices. Toast the spices first to release their delicate aromas into the dish, just as we do in this Indian-spiced tomato soup recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals.
The recipe was inspired by Indian soups known as shorba, which comes from the Arabic word “shurba,” meaning “soup.” Often simple, brothy, pureed soups, they are considered comfort food — the kind of soothing dish you’d find in home kitchens rather than in restaurants. In our version, we stir in garam masala, a blend of warming spices, to add depth of flavor and to complement the slightly acidic tomatoes and yogurt.
The brightness of the tomato and ginger shines through, and the toasted spice mixture provides the backbone of the soup’s flavor. If you happen to have ghee on hand, use it in place of butter for a subtly richer, more nuanced flavor. We like this soup served with warm naan for dipping.
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
2 tablespoons salted butter OR ghee
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 small bunch cilantro, tender stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
4 teaspoons garam masala
28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt, plus more to serve
In a large saucepan over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the ginger and cilantro stems; cook, stirring occasionally, until the ginger begins to stick to the pot and brown lightly, about 2 minutes. Add the garam masala and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with juices, 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
Using a blender and working in batches so the jar is never more than half full, puree the tomato mixture until smooth, about 20 seconds, then return to the saucepan. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the saucepan.) Stir in half of the cilantro leaves and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in the yogurt, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cilantro leaves and topped with yogurt.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap