Justin Woods, head chef at The Castle Green Hotel, Kendal, and Greenhouse restaurant

When I make tomato and basil soup it lacks flavour. What can I do to improve the taste?

Jeannie Kelly, Penrith

SOUPS, as many other foods, can lack flavour due to a lack of seasoning but also due to an absence of good quality ingredients. For a tomato soup you are best using overripe tomatoes, not rotten ones, but overripe ones. To make about 8 portions, you will need about 2kg of tomatoes roughly chopped, 4 cloves peeled and sliced garlic, 2 peeled and chopped onions and 1 bunch of fresh basil. In a large pan over a medium heat add a big splash of olive oil, add the sliced garlic, the chopped onions and the stalks from the basil, reserving the leaves. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft but not brown. Add your chopped tomatoes and 100ml water. Let the tomatoes cook for about 10 minutes, if they are overripe, then they won’t need much cooking. In a separate pan, place about 150ml of red wine vinegar and about 100g of caster sugar, reduce till syrupy, then add to the soup, this will give your soup a little kick. Carefully with a blender, blitz the soup till fairly smooth. In a pestle and mortar or small blender, mix the reserved basil leaves with a few pinches of sea salt until you have a nice paste, add 100ml of olive oil to make a vivid green oil. Pour your soup into bowls, top with some basil oil and serve with some warm, crusty bread.