Tag Archives: tomatoes

Tomates à la Crème

This is worth repeating. The recipe is by Pomiane, but the source used by most people is Elizabeth David, with other versions being from Simon Hopkinson, Julian Barnes, and Ginette Mathiot. (There is a tomates à la Polonaise in Cooking in Ten Minutes, but that involves cooking finely minced onions on a high heat for five minutes, so I’m a little suspicious of the translation.)

Here’s what I do.

Gather as many medium tomatoes as you fancy. (Really small or really huge toms won’t work.) They can be cryogenic, artillery grade supermarket tomatoes as well, because this process really brings out the flavour.

Slice them in half and grind a little salt and plenty of pepper over the cut faces. If the tomatoes are really depressing, and completely pale and rock-like on the inside, sprinkle a small amount of brown sugar on the cut faces as well. Place them face down in a hot pan in which you’ve melted some butter. The pan should be hot enough for everything to be politely sizzling, but not so hot the butter starts going brown.

Fry for five minutes. (Or, longer on a low heat if you have time.) As they fry, pierce the skins of each a few times with a sharp knife.

Turn them over and fry face up for another five minutes. The faces should have coloured a bit, with a bit of brown, but no black. There may also be some sticky goo clinging to the bottom of the pan. Good.

Turn them cut face down again. They will probably hiss and exude juice, and they certainly will if you accidentally on purpose turn up the heat. Tip in some double cream. Once the cream is bubbling, stir and scrape to mix it with the butter and tomato juice, and incorporate any sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan.

Serve immediately, with plenty of bread or pasta to soak up the juices.

Quantities

I’ve been a bit vague. Assuming six tomatoes somewhere in size between a squash ball and a tennis ball, I reckon you’ll need 20g of butter and 40mL of cream.

Variations

Hopkinson mentions adding some torn up mint leaves with the cream. A small amount of basil won’t hurt, either.

In the unlikely event you have leftovers, fry some prawns in garlic and chilli, and then add the leftovers, and some pasta.

Pizza

I love pizza, as should all Right Thinking Men and Women.

It’s easy to make at home, and fun. A favourite procedure of mine is this: make the dough and the sauce the night before, as they’ll keep in the fridge. Then, get each guest to bring: a pizza ingredient, and a cheese. (Co-ordinate before, so we don’t have the scenario from Sesame Street where everyone brings potato salad to the King’s Picnic.) Then, all you need do is have plenty of cold, cold beer on hand, and whip up pizzas over the course of the evening. If the combinations become more eccentric as the night goes on, so be it.

Note: This procedure produces thin, crusty pizzas. If you want American style, deep pizzas, then I can’t help you.

The Dough

For enough dough to feed six in one sitting, i.e. make about six smallish pizzas, I use the following:

  • 300g strong flour (i.e. bread flour)
  • 200g plain flour – I’m not quite sure where these proportions come from, they’re scribbled on a piece of manky paper from years ago – you could probably just go with 100% strong flour if you prefer – you might also try 100% Italian “doppio zero” flour for authenticity
  • one sachet dried yeast (normally about 5-7g)
  • 10g salt (the posh brand of sea salt is good here, save the other stuff for boiling pasta)
  • a gloop, alright 20mL, of olive oil, yer best extra-virgin-on-the-ridiculous – you could be authentic and replace with the same amount of lard, this is called the strutto
  • 375mL very warm water

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and combine, and gradually add the water, whilst stirring.

You’ll probably want to stop after about 325mL, if the dough is fairly dry, add another 25mL, so you end up with something slightly sticky. If it’s still dry, then you may need the final 25mL. Mix in the olive oil. You’ll probably find that the spoon became fairly useless about halfway through the mixing process and you’ll need to use your hands.

Knead for about ten minutes, and then plonk into a clean bowl, cover with a teatowel, and allow to rise. It’ll need about an hour, depending on the ambient temperature. (Some recipes tell you to oil the bowl first, to stop the dough sticking. I’ve never had a problem.)

That’s it. You don’t need a second rising: it’s ready for action. At this point, you can also put it in the fridge, and it will keep for a week in an airtight container. Not too airtight, as it will continue to rise and you don’t want an explosion. (One of my friends says “three weeks”, as apparently the yeast is so mean, no other microbes will dare go anywhere near it.)

The Sauce

Forget this pizza bianca crap. There’s gotta be tomato sauce, and I think it ought to be homemade. Doesn’t need to be fancy, though. Assuming you’ve made the dough in the quantities above, you’ll need…

  • four cloves of garlic
  • a tablespoon of olive oil
  • a 500g carton of passata

Just chop up the garlic and fry it in the olive oil, when done, add the passata, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. After about an hour the sauce will have reduced by half and be ready for action.

Now, that’s a pretty inoffensive sauce; inoffensive being a synonym for unexciting. I’d also consider some of the following:

  • chuck in half a teaspoon of chillis when frying the garlic
  • a spoon of dried oregano once you’ve added the tomatoes
  • some anchovies
  • a shake of the Tabasco bottle
  • a teaspoon of red wine vinegar
  • some dried basil (save the fresh stuff for the pizza topping)

The Topping

Less is more, alright. Anything that can be, should be thinly sliced.

  • salami and olives
  • prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella
  • anchovies and anything
  • raw prawns that have been marinated in something interesting
  • capers, crème fraîche, and smoked salmon (put it on after the pizza has come out of the oven)
  • those “chicken tikka mini fillets” you get from M&S, some mango chutney, and a splash of yoghurt (with some dried mint mixed in) once it comes out of the oven
  • anything from the antipasto counter at Camisa’s
  • someone said that putting bolognese sauce on it was wrong – I was so intrigued by this that I tried it with some leftovers and it was marvellous

Putting it all Together

Now for the fun bit.

Get the oven going, and crank it up as far as it will go. Place a heavy baking sheet on a high shelf, and let that heat up.

Get another baking sheet, the same size as the one that’s heating up, and use this as your rolling board: it’ll be obvious in a few paragraphs why. Spread a handful of dry semolina or coarse polenta over it, which will stop the dough sticking.

Break off a fist sized chunk of dough, about 150g, and start rolling it out.

This will make a pizza big enough to fit on a large dinner plate. I’ve never owned a rolling pin, so end up using a wine bottle. You want to get it about half a centimetre thick. Once you’ve got it reasonably flat, feel free to use your hands to stretch it. Make sure, once it’s done, that there’s plenty of semolina underneath, and it slides around without too much trouble. You’ll notice quite a bit of the semolina embeds itself in the surface of the dough. This will cook, and add an extra crunchiness to the finished product, so don’t be shy.

Put the ingredients on top.

Now take it over to the oven. With a bit of luck, and enough semolina underneath, you can slide it off the cold baking sheet and onto the hot baking sheet. About eight minutes in the oven should do it.

Stating the Obvious

Some things to note:

  • if you’re going to top with mozzarella, make sure it’s the industrial strength stuff from the cow, and not the exquisitely delicate stuff from the buffalo – you can use the latter, but if you do, pop it on a minute before you take it out of the oven
  • beer is mandatory
  • pineapple is an abomination
  • so is processed ham

Chunky Pasta

A useful weeknight no-brainer, if your local supermarket is grand enough to sell bags of pre-prepped sofritto.

  • a 400g bag sofritto
  • 50g pancetta (I normally have a stash in the freezer of those useful little plastic boxes they have in supermarkets)
  • a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • four cloves of garlic (or however much you like)

I know everything comes out of a packet or a tin, but that’s the beauty of it. Anyway, here goes.

  1. Fry the pancetta gently, ’til it’s dark brown and all the fat has rendered.
  2. Whilst that’s happening, peel and slice the garlic, and then add it to the pan, frying until translucent and a slightly coloured.
  3. Dump in the sofritto. There should be enough fat from the pancetta, but if not, add a splash of olive oil.
  4. A sneaky half teaspoon of sugar sprinkled over and stirred in will help the edges go brown and sticky.
  5. Fry ‘til soft – take your time – if there’s a bit of brown around the edges and a hint of stuff sticking to the bottom of pan – all the better.
  6. Dump in the tinned tomatoes, plus a teaspoon of dried oregano and half a teaspoon dried basil – if you like pepper now would be the time to add a grind, there should be enough salt in the pancetta so you shouldn’t need any more.
  7. Simmer gently for about as long as it takes to cook the pasta, which should be conchiglie, because once it’s done you’re going to vigorously stir it and the sauce together so the bits of veg and pancetta get caught up inside the shells.
  8. Pass the parmesan.

Variations

Instead of using pancetta, you could add some anchovy fillets towards the end.

A glass of red wine won’t hurt: you may even care to put a splash in the sauce.

Maybe some chopped up mushrooms just before simmering?

Lamb Curry

There was some rather good lamb in the supermarket today, so it had to be Curry.

I used

  • 400g lamb leg, trimmed and chopped into cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp minced chilli from the jar (wasn’t quite enough for my tastes)
  • 50mL Greek yoghurt (and another 50mL for later)
  • a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a large onion
  • a fistful of coriander leaves
  • and a supporting cast of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and cloves

I do it like this:

  1. Put the cubed lamb in a bowl with the chilli, crushed garlic, a grind of pepper and salt, and the yoghurt. Mix well, and let this sit for at least an hour, or maybe an afternoon. If you’re doing it overnight, maybe in the fridge.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion into wedges – no need to get fancy – and gently fry it in a large pan, with a couple of tablespoons of oil, six cloves, and half a cinnamon stick, broken into two.

    Around about twenty minutes ought to do the trick, which is just enough time to have a beer.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, grind up about a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and the seeds from six cardamom pods until vaguely powdery. Yes, you can get fancy and use some kind of mechanical grinder, but the effort you spend cleaning that bit of machinery afterwards will put your labours with the mortar and pestle to shame.
  4. Back at the pan, fish out the cloves and cinnamon – doesn’t matter if a few bits get left behind – and then turn the heat up high. Add the cumin and cardamom, and stir madly for about half a minute.
  5. Just before the spices start to burn, add the lamb. (You may want to have your extractor fan going at this juncture, or have a window open.) Keep stirring furiously, for about a minute, until the lamb is cooked on the outside.
  6. Turn the heat right down, and hurl in the tomatoes.

    If you hurl them in with the unnecessary esprit and élan with which I hurled them tonight, you will get tomato on your jeans. Consider this possibility.
  7. Now, just let the whole thing simmer, very gently, for about an hour.
  8. Five minutes before the end, stir in the rest of the yoghurt, and the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve with basmati rice. You could reserve some of the coriander, plus a lemon wedge or two, for a garnish, if you’re that way inclined.

Tomato and Whisky Soup

I have half a kilo of things, sold as tomatoes, but more suitable for use on an artillery range. They’re hard and they’re flavourless. Here’s what to do with them: it’s an austere, but highly effective recipe, even better when you’ve got some nice tomatoes.

Wash the tomatoes, but don’t bother skinning them, and pack them into a saucepan so they form a single layer. You may need to experiment with the size of saucepan and the orientation of the toms in order to achieve this. It also needs to be a pan with a tight fitting lid as we don’t really want to reduce the mixture.

Add 60mL whisky (no need for the single malt!) per 500g tomatoes, a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, and a bay leaf. Put on a low, low heat; just enough to keep them gently bubbling. After an hour they will have partially collapsed.

All you need do is fish out the bay leaf, and then push everything through a coarse sieve, until nothing but the seeds and skins remain, which you can discard. And that’s it. No stock, no veg, no herbs, no nothin’, just loads of tomato flavour. (You could add some more pepper and stir in some crème fraîche if you really wanted, but taste it in its raw form first.)

It’s a strongly flavoured soup, and I’d hazard a guess that 500g toms produces enough soup for two servings as a first course.


Not quite sure where this one came from. I think I had the procedure desribed to me by Him What Knows.


Tomato Chilli Relish

This is quite potent.

You will need:

  • one medium onion
  • one tin (450g) of chopped tomatoes
  • six cloves of garlic
  • 60mL red wine vinegar (you could use Balsamic, if you wanted)
  • a tablespoon chilli
  • salt, pepper, sugar, 6 cloves

Finely slice the onion, and gently fry in enough olive oil to keep it moist, but not so that it’s swimming. A quick grind of salt, and about half a teaspoon of sugar will help it on its way.

Whilst that’s happening, peel and chop the garlic. When the onion is soft and squishy, move it to one side, add the garlic, and fry for a minute or two; still on a gentle heat. You may need an extra splash of olive oil.

Once the garlic is soft and translucent, move it to one side, and add the chilli. I’m just using the minced stuff that comes in jars, pickled with vinegar. Fry the chilli for about a minute, and then add the tomatoes.

Bring it to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the vinegar, another teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, the cloves, and a very thorough grind of pepper.

Simmer gently. Taste from time to time, and decide whether you fancy more sugar, salt, vinegar, etc.

As it reduces, it will change hue from a cheerful orange to a more ominous dark red, and after about an hour, it should have reduced and become thick and sinister. You could shove a handheld blender (purée wand) into the mix at this point, or just leave it as it is. I’d pick out the cloves first, in either case, so they don’t come as a horrid surprise.

Serve hot or cold with sausages, potato wedges, etc.

Tomato Goop

Just to be clear about Monday night’s procedure. The resulting goop can then be used as the basis for soup, pasta sauce, lasagne, parmagiana di melanzane, chilli con carne, etc. Very useful to divide into lots and freeze.

You will need:

  • 50-100g pancetta (if the butcher tells you that he don’t have owt of that foreign muck, then just ask for dry cured belly bacon instead; it’s the same thing, and has less of a mark up)
  • one large or two medium onions
  • half a bunch of celery
  • half a dozen medium sized carrots
  • 800g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • half a litre of hot vegetable stock (i.e. boil the jug and use some Marigold Boullion)
  • 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, butter, olive oil

Do the following:

  1. Dice the pancetta and put it directly into a large pot on a low heat; just hot enough so that it makes a soft sizzling noise. Keep an eye on it, and stir occasionally whilst you’re chopping the veg. You want the pancetta to darken (but not go dark brown or black!) and the fat to run off. If a few bits stick and a bit of a light brown glaze appears on the bottom of the pan, don’t worry.
  2. Chop up the veg into about 1cm pieces – sorry about the vague quantities above, but we want to end up with roughly the same amount of onion, celery and carrot. (Some supermarkets do bags of pre-prepped soffritto, which is a time saver, but often very wet, so you may need to be patient when you fry it.)
  3. The pancetta should be done in about 5 mins, so throw in the veg, add a pinch of salt, turn up the heat, and add enough oil/butter so that they’re coated, but there’s none pooling at the bottom of the pot. Less is more in this case.
  4. Fry the veg for about 5 mins, until translucent. If the onion gets a bit gold about the edges, and if more stuff sticks to the bottom, even better, as long as it doesn’t go black.
  5. Whilst the veg are going, get the stock ready and hot.
  6. Sprinkle over a tablespoon of plain flour and stir furiously, so the flour coats the vegetables, doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, and gets cooked.
  7. After about a minute of mad stirring, turn down the heat, pour in about a quarter of the stock and blend in, and then add the rest. There should now be nothing left sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  8. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, and pepper.
  9. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the mix reduce for about half an hour.