This serendipitous little soup was given life a few years back when I was cooking at a restaurant with a nasty little owner. He would insist on going to the markets each morning to buy box loads of fresh produce that we had scant hope of moving before it started to ferment. It was always a case of trying to save produce rather than celebrating it. Needless to say, I did not work there long but I did take this soup with me.
The owner came from the markets one morning with a box of eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes and capsicum (bell peppers) that he declared were a bargain. Well it's not a bargain if they are thrown in the trash, so I set about trying to salvage what I could.
This soup is densely packed with texture and flavour. The earthiness of the eggplant is playfully offset by the sweetness of the tomatoes and capsicum, and the roasting of the vegetables adds a whole new dimension. The soup can be made vegetarian by using water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and vegan by omitting the crème fraiche and using silken tofu blended with soy milk instead.
Slice the top (calyx) from the eggplant. Chop the eggplant into rough cubes. Place in a roasting tray with the tomatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic and oil, toss to combine and cover with tin foil. Roast in a pre heated 220°C (440°F) oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the vegetables and roast again, this time uncovered for a further 20 minutes. This will colour the vegetables and provide extra flavour.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large pot and add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavours get acquainted with one another.
Place the whole lot, in batches, into a food processor and gently pulse so that it is chopped well, but not fully pureed. You need a little texture left in the soup. Season with the salt and pepper then ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with the crème fraiche and basil and serve with lots of good bread.
Addendum. I feel it would be a shame to waste all the lovely roasted vegetable flavour that clings to the bottom of the roasting tray, which would be the case if you were to line the base of the tray with foil as per the method below. But hell, I hate washing up time too. A compromise must be struck. Try deglazing instead. Deglazing is simply lifting the sediment from a cooking vessel, usually a frying pan or roasting tray, with the aid of some sort of liquid. Try using a little (1/2 cup) dry white wine, stock or even water. Now you have a clean tray and all the extra flavour. Thanks panamaus for the tips!