This is one of my favourite vegetable-and-fruit soup combinations and is best made at the end of the summer when tomatoes are at their sweetest and plums just coming into season.
Halve six of the plum tomatoes lengthways, and roughly chop the rest. Using a frying pan and a saucepan, put a tablespoon of olive oil in each. In the saucepan cook the chopped tomatoes and vegetables with the pieces of sun-dried tomato until soft, but without really browning them. Fry the halved tomatoes in the frying pan until the skin has turned dark brown, and then transfer them to the saucepan. Pour a little of the stock into the frying pan, and scrape up all the cooking residues, which will give you quite a dark golden-brown liquid. Pour it into the saucepan. This, and the charred tomato skins, give the soup an unusual depth of flavour.
Poach the plums in some of the remaining vegetable stock until just tender. When cool, put them in a blender or food processor with the soft vegetables and tomatoes, the remaining stock and some basil leaves. Blend until smooth, and sieve.
The soup can be served chilled or hot. Season to taste just before serving, and serve with some more fresh basil leaves, shredded just before use, and a swirl of soured cream or thick yoghurt.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.