2603 views 41 comments

Raymond Blanc’s Tomato Essence (Only Partly Daring Cooks)

by on September 18, 2011
 

We fell into bed just after 8pm in Bedroom 2 of our transit house, exhausted by the day’s events. While the day was not dotted with drama, it had been a long one for us all – the first day of school for the three children, and the first time in all the schooling years that I wouldn’t be the one to see them off on Day one, some with streams of tears, holding on to Mama’s skirt and saying ‘I want to go home with you Mama’. Papa instead had the sole honours.

IMG_0914

Its week 4 already and things are slowly shaping up in my home country of Nigeria. The kids are getting an education, we’ve found a house with a yard and 3 flower beds, some already sprouting waterleaf plants, Nigerian greens which must be related to Spinach for their soft, watery nature.

IMG_2144

I’m amazed at how easy it is to get by with so little of one’s belongings. I remember my boss of a few months ago, R say to me ‘Watch how you feel the moment the container leaves your house. It is the best feeling ever.’ And so I was very careful, monitoring my joy and sadness and when the moving truck left, taking all our things with it, I broke down and cried. I never really felt the freedom he meant till Tuesday night, lying down in bed at 9pm, contemplating continuing to read the trials and travails of Nigerian citizens in the heart of a coup by the fantastic Nigerian writer, Chidimamanda Adichie’s in her book ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ or writing this post.

My basil plant

In the end, the liberty of my soul won, unfettered by ‘must do’s’ and have to’s. I thought through my day and was shocked at how simple it was- school runs, work, home, dinner, homework and sleep. And then I focused on how for almost 5 weeks we’ve lived out of suitcases. No pizza stone, no pasta roller, ice cream maker, dough whisk. Nothing. No camera, no lights, no action. I’d never have thought I could last this long without rustling up more than pancakes, corned beef sauce and Swiss Bircher. No fancy meals, just wholesome ones. Only one set of plates and cups and pots and pans. One set which require washing up…which I have, strangely enough, come to enjoy. Really enjoy. Is this me, I wonder?

IMG_9094

Freedom has let me loose, she has embraced me and will not let go. I smile though because free as I am, as we are, it would be nice to see the entire contents of my wardrobe….in one place, to look for cinnamon powder and find it. To desire cardamom in my coffee and find green pods waiting to be crushed. Instead, I open my small blue Laura Biagotti overnight case, stuffed with my jewels, fake and real…and find some delicious Swiss chocolate from Laderach in the top zip compartment. I’m not complaining or announcing its presence to anyone (husband especially) but nothing has a ‘place’ anymore. No corner is sacred, chocolate and jewelry can share a home, as do face caps and dried red chillies, shoes and books.

Fennel spread

Out of the deep freezer, I bring out and search a bag of spices I hand-carried, just to be sure there are no cardamom pods hiding at the bottom. Instead, I find packs of sugar, white, light brown and dark brown. As well as yellow triple A batteries from Ikea, and a few paper receipts. All in the deep freezer – I have many thanks to tender to my man.

And so I considered opting out of this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge for even if I could make a stock, soup is not what we’re longing for right now.

Blog-checking lines: Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

Mandatory Items: You must make a stock and turn it into a soup (savoury or sweet). You must also make an accompaniment for your soup.

Optional: Turn your stock into consommé. If the thought of the clarifying stage is too much for you don’t worry about it but I do encourage you to have a go.

Variations allowed: If you don’t want to use one of my recipes or links that is fine make your favourite (savoury or sweet) soup and accompaniment and (if you want to) turn the soup into a consommé.

In the end, I didn’t make a stock and its up to the world and the host to decide if this is fitting for the ‘stock to soup theme’ because what I share, though a great recipe is neither stock nor soup…though I imagine it could easily take on a new name to fit the bill. This is more of an essence, eliciting the best of every ingredient involved to create a wonderful base that truly is worthy of ‘stock’, soup and consomme.

Lemon thyme curd

Months ago I saw Raymond Blanc make a ‘Tomato essence’, blitzing tomatoes, fennel, herbs and spices. This he ladled into cheesecloth and ‘hung’ to drip. The result? Liquid gold with tomato flavors that were pure and clean.

Shortly after, I dared to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. It was easy as pie to assemble and in the end, I made homemade ravioli with wonton skins and gently poached them in the tomato essence for a delicious dinner.

And though I am enjoying this days of zen, having very little wordily property, I am looking forward to seeing my pieces of fabric and all the other junk I’ve accumulated. To hug and to hold and perchance even to give away.

Please stop by the Daring Kitchen to see stock recipes that transformed themselves to soup.

Tomato Essence, adapted from Raymond Blanc

Ingredients
750g red and yellow cherry tomatoes, ripe and washed
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 baby fennel, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
½ sprig lemon thyme leaves, chopped
5-6 basil leaves, washed and chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
2-3 drops Angostura bitters
10 – 12 fresh green peppercorns (or brined – rinse before using)
How To

Do this in 2 or 3 batches.

For each batch: In a food processor, blitz all the ingredients together 5 times for 2 seconds each, using the pulse button. Repeat for all batches. Combine all batches into a bowl and stir.

Refrigerate and allow to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, or longer – up to 3 hours.

Line a sieve with cheesecloth/muslin and place over a large bowl, to collect the liquid gold. Pour in tomato mixture and refrigerate overnight. Do not be tempted to squeeze the muslin to hurry up the process – the result will be cloudy and red. Instead, wait till the morning when you can decant you liquid gold into a jar (and use tomato pulp for something else or discard. Mine went into a bread soup which was middle of the road).  

XOXOIMG_0911