Don’t be put off by the length of this recipe! It is the most popular soup in Mexico, and with all the wonderful garnishes you lay on the table, it can make a spectacular starter or lunch.
If you can’t get hold of every chilli, stick to the chipotle, or simply throw in a couple of fresh chillies and some smoked paprika instead. But if you can make the effort to find the guajillo and ancho chillies, it’s worth it for the deep, intense flavour they provide.
If using fresh tomatoes, turn the grill to its highest setting and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the tomatoes under the grill and cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally until they are thoroughly blackened all round.
In the meantime, chop and toast the 3 types of chilli, if using. Once they are toasted, soak in a bowl of boiling water for 15 minutes. Now put the olive oil and onion into a frying pan and stir over a low heat.
After 5 minutes, add the garlic and plenty of salt and pepper, cooking until the onion is translucent.
Add the chopped herbs along with the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes start to fall apart, then add the chillies, drained of their soaking water, and the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
After the soup has simmered for another 5–10 minutes, whiz it up with a stick blender and season to taste. It may need more salt and a good pinch of brown sugar to bring out the flavour of the tomatoes.
Ladle into hot bowls and serve at the table with bowls of the deep-fried anchos, sour cream, crispy totopos, coriander leaf, feta, avocado and lime wedges. This is a showstopper of a soup, perfect as a starter for a Mexican-themed dinner party.
NOTE: To deep-fry chillies, heat about 5 cm oil in a small saucepan. Slice the chillies, place them on a metal slotted spoon and deep-fry for 5 seconds, until they puff up. Be careful not to burn them or they will be bitter.