First, credit where credit is due – and in this case, credit goes to the amazing Jack Monroe. She has done so much to make good, healthy, tasty cooking affordable and accessible to so many people. It is heartbreaking that her recipes are so vital for so many people, but I am bloody glad she does what she does. This includes her incredibly easy, tasty tomato soup. Click here for a link to the recipe.

Tomato soup, whether homemade or from a tin, has always been a favourite comfort food of mine – it soothes hangovers, warms the internal organs after a walk in the cold, and it’s a staple for kids when they are sick and have the day off school. I used to think I was incredibly sophisticated as a child when, after watching Dad do the same, I’d sprinkle my bowl of piping hot tinned tomato soup with dried Master Foods parsley. I was ever the junior gourmet!

For this particular tomato soup, I take inspiration from Jack’s recipe and then add a few tricks of my own for a soup inspired by a Bloody Mary – the alcoholic part is optional so it can be served to a non-drinker without causing offence. It is then a Virgin Mary tomato soup – assuming the Virgin Mary enjoyed things a little spicy.

The bacon dust garnish can be made with turkey or beef bacon if you don’t eat pork, or a bacon substitute if you don’t eat meat. And this dust can be used as a garnish for any soup that warrants a more-ish, salty hit. A few years ago, I made it to dress up an asparagus soup for a big family Christmas. My nephew Oliver was maybe three or four at the time and he was my wonderful little sous chef. Once I’d dried the bacon under Gran’s grill, Oliver was on bacon-bashing duty, beating the dried rashers into a powder with a rolling pin. He enjoyed this noisy task so much that when he was asked if he wanted to go outside and see if he could spot Santa’s sleigh, he refused. He preferred to stay with Aunty George in the kitchen – after all, it was a cold day in the north-east of England and the kitchen was lovely and cosy.

This tomato soup will be appearing on my Christmas dinner table this year. With the vodka…

Bloody Mary tomato soup


For the bacon dust

2 rashers smoked bacon



For the soup

2 tablespoons, olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

Three cloves of garlic

400g tin chopped tomatoes

250ml stock (any flavour is fine)

Dash of Tabasco sauce or chilli powder to taste

Salt, pepper and dried basil to taste

Shot of vodka for each guest, optional


Make the bacon dust first and then set aside.

  1. Sprinkle the bacon rashers with salt and paprika and put under a hot grill for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn and grill for a further 10 minutes. The bacon should be nice and crispy by now.
  3. Put the dried rashers in a ziplock bag with an extra teaspoon of salt and a little more paprika to taste. Close the bag and beat it with a rolling pin or meat tenderising hammer until it’s pulverised to a breadcrumb-like consistency.

For the soup:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the onion, garlic and celery on a medium heat until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock and cook for a further five minutes, mixing the tomatoes and stock well.
  3. Pour the mixture into a blender and whizz until the onion and celery are well and truly blitzed.
  4. Tip back into the pot, add the Tabasco sauce or chilli powder and seasonings to taste. Mix well and cook under a low heat for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and decant into bowls. Sprinkle some bacon dust on top and serve with a shot of vodka, if desired.

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