Back to Work Dinner
The thing about coming half way around the world is that the seasons are back to front. We are in full summer right now, with the lovely fruit and vegetables that go with it.
I made this recipe for a friend who had kindly put us up for our wonderful week in Sydney. It is one of her favourites, and so I decided to make it for her to help her ease back to work after Christmas. She likes the dish, because the ingredients are very basic, and simple, but as long as they are chosen (or grown) well, they really are more than the sum of their parts.
The tomatoes take a little preparation. Being the lazy type, I often don’t bother to do this. But, as they are the star in this dish, it really is worth the effort.
It is a Bill Granger recipe, from his book Sydney Food, published by Murdoch Books. I have reproduced it here, simply because, in my usual no-waste style, there is so much that you can do with what most people would discard from this recipe, which I have given at the end of the pasta recipe.
This is a great summer dish, whether your summer comes in December or in June.
Recipe: Bill’s Tomato Pasta
1 kg vine tomatoes – or really ripe ones from your garden
1 tbsp sea salt
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 lemon – juice and zest
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
400 g spaghetti, 100 g per person
1 bunch basil, leaves removed from stalks
Shaved Parmesan to serve
Firstly, wash the tomato and the vine. Do not discard the vine, as it imparts a lot of flavour, and you know I hate to waste anything!
Then plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 10 seconds, and refresh in iced water or under a running tap. I prefer the iced water, because you can use it to water plants with, once the ice has melted, and the water is at room temperature. The skin should be splitting from the tomato, and should be quite easy to peel at this stage. If it isn’t plunge it back into the boiling water for a few seconds, and refresh again. As you will not be able to do all of the tomatoes at once, I keep a pan of water boiling on the stove for this recipe. Again, you can use the water afterwards for tea (so you haven’t wasted the energy it took to boil it either!), or put it in your water butt or pot plants.
The only part of the tomato that I haven’t found a use for is the skin,which is normally indigestible, so on its own I don’t really know what to do with it. The skins go in my wormery, so I get some use from them eventually. If anyone has any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments.
Once you have peeled your tomatoes, cut them in half, and remove the seeds and the watery pulp. Please don’t throw this away, as you will be throwing away a lot of useful flavour. Instead, collect it in a bowl, and we’ll come back to it later.
Roughly chop the flesh of the tomato. Then place it in a sieve, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Leave it over a bow for at least half an hour, to draw out more moisture. This will make your dish as flavourful as possible. Don’t discard the liquid run-off either, as this will be used up later, I promise.
Meanwhile, crush and finely chop the garlic. Mix this with the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, chopped chilli, pepper and olive oil. Put the tomatoes in this mixture once they have had a little while to steep in the salt. Mix this well, and then leave aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
Boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water. Make sure it is still a little al dente. Drain, and then add it to the tomato mixture. Mix it up well, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Tear the basil leaves and add them to the pasta.
Serve the pasta with parmesan shavings, best kept large and made with a vegetable peeler. I also served mine with a simple green salad, dressed with a dressing made from the tomato consommé, from the bits that we kept aside earlier.
Mel’s Multitude of Methods with Tomato “Waste”.
As promised, now we get to the bits that you kept aside earlier.
You should have the vine or truss that the tomatoes came on, the juice and seeds from the tomatoes, and the liquid run off from the salted tomato flesh. Good. Firstly, break up the tomato vine into bits a couple of cm long. Then, mix all three tomato “waste” products, and pass them through a sieve. The vine will give this an intense tomato flavour. You can either allow this to drip through on its own for a clear liquid, or you can push this pulpy mixture through with the back of a spoon, whereby the liquid will be red. Congratulations, you have now made tomato consommé!
Treasure, not trash!
At this stage, fish the vines back out of the sieve, and compost them. Tip the seeds out, and dry them on some kitchen paper. When they are dry, pick off any remaining pulp (which will go mouldy) and then put them in an envelope (write tomato seeds on the envelope, so you know what they are). Next spring, put them in soil, and water it regularly, and you will likely get new tomatoes! If you use organic tomatoes, this is almost certain. Some supermarket tomatoes may not germinate, because they are F1 or hybrids, but you will have lost nothing by giving it a go. Especially if you have reused an old envelope, and written on it in pencil!
The consommé can be used for a million things. It will be intensely flavoured, and slightly acid, like the tomatoes from which it came. I made a dressing for the green salad I served with the pasta dish. I mixed 2 tbsp tomato consommé with salt, pepper, a splash of white balsamic vinegar, and then enough extra virgin olive oil to make a nice emulsion.
If you have enough, chilled consommé makes a delicious soup for a starter, just garnish it with some basil before serving.
The consommé freezes well, and can be added to soups, stews, and other tomato pasta sauces (for which you do not need to freeze it, but it will keep longer). We froze ours in an ice cube tray, and when they are frozen, we will put them into a plastic bag to save space.
Many Methods with Consommé
Tomato consommé can be added to cocktails , but it is probably too light for a bloody mary. If you make your own ketchup, add with the sugar to intensify the tomato taste. In fact, pretty much any sauce that has tomatoes in will benefit from its addition.
If you want to be really cheffy, freeze it in a block. Once frozen, scrape it with a fork. The resulting crystals can be used as “tomato snow” on very delicate dishes. This is so easy, but you pay a fortune for it in a restaurant. People will also think you are an aspiring Heston, without you having to go anywhere near liquid nitrogen!
The possibilities to use this flavourful liquid are endless. How will you use yours?