Place the tomatoes, garlic, onions and thyme sprigs in a large baking dish, sprinkle with the chilli flakes and season to taste (rather liberally then lightly) with salt, pepper and sugar.
Drizzle with oil and roast (undisturbed) for 60 minutes or longer at 190ºC or until lightly browned and sticky from being caramelized by the heat.
Remove from oven, fish out the thyme stalks and allow to cool down a bit. Process the tomatoes with the onion and garlic and pan juices in a processor or with a stick blender in a large bowl until smooth. If you like, you can now push the pureé through a sieve.
Place the pureé into a saucepan, add the tomato paste and stir in as much stock as you like. Be careful, you do not want to lose the intensity of the roast tomato flavour by thinning it down too much, but on the other hand, you do not want a soup so thick you can stick a spoon in it!
At this stage, if you want, you can bind everything together by making a paste (roux) of the melted butter and flour and stirring nuggets of it into the soup until it is to your liking.
Once you are happy with the consistency, stir in the cream (if using) and herbs.
Taste and then add more seasoning if you like: salt, pepper and sugar even a fresh addition of chopped herbs, crushed garlic and chilli flakes.
Serve topped with croutons, basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Reprinted with permission of Anne Myers
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