Chase the chill away with hot soup
Few things beat a hot meal on a cold day. Stews and casseroles can fit the bill in such situations, but soup is a go-to solution when looking to warm up.
This recipe for Tortilla Soup from The Complete Mexican, South American & Caribbean Cookbook by Jane Milton, Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filippelli (Metro Books) can be served as an appetizer or light meal. The crispy tortilla strips included in the recipe add extra texture to a delicious dish.
4 corn tortillas, freshly made or a few days old
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 14-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained
4 cups chicken stock
Small bunch cilantro
Salt and ground black pepper
Using a sharp knife, cut each tortilla into 4 or 5 strips, each measuring about 3/4 inches wide.
Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 3/4 inch into a heavy frying pan. Heat until a small piece of tortilla, added to the oil, floats on the top and bubbles at the edges.
Add a few tortilla strips to the hot oil and fry for a few minutes, until crisp and golden brown all over, turning them occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a double layer of paper towels. Cook the remaining tortilla strips in the same way.
Heat the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large, heavy pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not let the garlic turn brown or it will give the soup a bitter taste.
Chop the tomatoes using a large, sharp knife and add them to the onion mixture in the pan. Pour in the chicken stock and stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced slightly.
Chop the cilantro. Add to the soup, reserving a little to use as a garnish. Season to taste.
Place a few of the crisp tortilla pieces in the bottom of four warmed soup bowls. Ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle each portion with the reserved chopped cilantro and serve.