JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Something a little more glamorous

Having started blogging this morning on a whim, I am now worrying that the kedgeree recipe will give the impression that we have become earnest, sandal-wearing, bean-eating near veggies, who only eat food that is brown, mushy, ugly and tasteless. Well, no, actually. As this unfolds, I will explain some of our new basic recipes, which take the place of the saturated fats we used to use as flavourings (butter, cream, etc). But in the mean time, I'm going to post a fantastic Raymond Blanc recipe I tried this week.

Essence of tomatoes

This requires two short bursts of activity, and can be made ahead. It is utterly delicious. The ingredients seem a little extravagent, but the pulp can be used either to make a stock (that's what I did this week, and it is going to be the basis of a beetroot risotto this evening), or to add to the bolognese sauce to increase daily veg portions without making people feel deprived of meat. (Actually, now I come to think of it, this is the ideal way to add veg to mince, because it wouldn't make it watery.)

Process: 2.5kg good tomatoes, 1 stick of celery, 1 shallot, half a bulb of fennel, 1 clove of garlic, some thyme, a little tarragon (I don't grow this, and couldn't find it locally), some basil, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 pinches of cayenne pepper, 5 drops of Worcs sauce, 3 drops of Tabasco (I might leave this out next time). Leave this to marinade all day.

Next you have to strain the pulp. I've got a fine seive, and that worked well. But you could use muslin, or a kitchen cloth. RB says that it needs straining for "at least 15 mins". Well, it's not nearly long enough. Half an hour would get most of the juice, a hour would get it all. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE PULP (see above). Chill the tomato essence.

You could just drink this wonderful cold soup like this, with a few drops of olive oil and some finely shredded basil leaves. But it is even better - and more glamorous - with tomato chopped into it. What you do is skin and deseed six large plum tomatoes, chop them up small, and put this mixture into the bottom of your soup plates. If you want real glamour, you can arrange them using a ring (we used an egg-poaching ring, but a napkin ring would do as well), and gently spoon the soup round it, and then float the shredded basil and oil round the tower. There isn't always time for this sort of caper, but even without it, the soup is delicious, and a lot cheaper than a visit to the Manoir au 4 Saisons.

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