Roasted Tomato Sauce

Where does the time go….?As usual, I’m behind with my Nom Fu obligations. I plead the general contrariness of life. I haven’t stopped cooking – I just stopped remembering to blog about it!

Still, I remembered in time to grab my camera for a foray into the unknown today. The subject of today’s experiment was in fact, driven by necessity. I grew tomatoes this year. They entirely refused to ripen on the plant, and as the days drew in and the weather threatened frost I picked a huge number of green tomatoes and put them in a bowl on the windowsill in a hopeful sort of way. Then I forgot about them. And they ripened.

So I had a large number of ever-riper tomatoes. I am not really much of a tomato user, to be honest. Canned ones in chili and the like, yes. Tomato puree, sure. The odd tomato in a salad, why not. I gave at least half of them away. But over a kilo of super ripe tomatoes that needed to be used right now? Panic…. Then I thought – I know! I’ll make a lovely roast tomato thing out of them, and freeze it, and it will be yummy for soup or chili later in the year. Right? Right!

So with no further ado….

Simplez.

The ‘ingredients’? Just over a kilo of tomatoes. An onion. Some lovely big garlic cloves. Not worthy of a proper ingredients list as this could be more or less anything you fancy – the tomatoes, however, are the point.

I sliced them all in half, cut out that greeny pithy core bit, and popped them into a deep-ish pan. Peeled the garlic cloves and popped them on top. Sliced the onion likewise. Gave it all a sprinkle of salt and a good spray-drizzle of oil, and a few Herbes de Provence for good measure.

The pan then went into a 200C oven for 45 minutes. It came out looking like this:

I put a foil hat on the pan and left it for about half an hour, and then went back and slipped all the tomato skins off. You can just pinch them off at this point. Any that stick, just squeeze the pulp into the pan and discard the skin. Easy. Then decant the whole lot into the container of your choice and have at it with a stick blender. A lot.

Result:

It comes out thick and splodgy, very like a thick ketchup. The flavour, however, I found rather disappointing. Tomato-blah, with an edge of charred onion that should have been rustic and delicious, and sort of wasn’t.

I could add a bit of sugar and vinegar, but then it would be rather ill-suited for use as an ingredient in other things. Still trying to decide what to do with it – I’ll probably bung it in the freezer anyway, simply because it’s a Home Grown Home Made Thing and I can’t quite bear to chuck it away; I expect I’ll ensoupify it later in the year. With the addition of more tasty ingredients, it would make an okay base.

Advertisements

Green Lentils with Bacon

For some inexplicable reason, my system has decided it wants aggressively healthy food this week. Possibly in self defence, shoring up its stocks of vitamins in preparation for what is likely to be a weekend of cake, but who knows. In any case – I have avoided carbs of all sorts, and ventured into unfamiliar territory.

Lentils, of course, the small red variety, are a staple in my kitchen but generally turn up in soup. Split peas likewise. I have really never had much to do with green lentils; never knowingly encountered them, and certainly never cooked anything involving them. So my sudden desire for chicken, spinach, and green lentils with bacon came completely out of nowhere. It hit so fast that I didn’t even think to take pictures until it was all done – and to be fair, it doesn’t take a lot of doing. No fancy stages, no lengthy prep or cooking – at least not the way I did it – just a delicious side dinner.

Ingredients
1 can green lentils (or prepare them yourself, I guess – about a cup?)
4 rashers streaky smoked bacon
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
a dash of oil
1 tsp bouillon powder (I used Maggi)
sprinkle of Herbes de Provence

Method
1. Dice the onion, celery and bacon small. Fry up the bacon until fat starts to come out of it; if very dry, add a dash of oil and then add the onions and celery.
2. Fry together until the onion goes translucent
3. Drain and add the lentils and give it a good stir around
4. Add the bouillon powder, herbs and a healthy dash of water to moisten
5. Cook for about another 5 mins til all heated through and flavours melded

Not pretty*, but so tasty! I had this as a dual protein with a pounded, lemon/garlic chicken breast, and a pile of spinach. Fantastic – enough to make me think adding spinach to the lentil/bacon mix would be a winner in itself. It’s even better reheated the next day.

(*I do have a picture. I’m debating adding it! Maybe later….)

Not pretty. But oh so tasty.

Wattleseed Panna Cotta

I love wattleseed. A natural taste combination of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut – how can that not be a good thing? The only problem has been trying to get it in the UK. Sure, you can order from overseas, but at eye-watering prices and doubtful delivery; or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places. Be that as it may, I found some at my new favourite online spice store* and could not wait to use it in something.

But what?

Spices yay!

I have very fond memories of an astonishingly good wattleseed creme brulee that my sibs came up with once upon a time. Mmm.. and really nothing to distract from the wattleseed flavour. Ideal! But I’m downright afraid of creme brulee – it requires custard and double boilers and shallow pans of water in the oven. Something simpler. Panna cotta?

I’ve never made panna cotta; I really haven’t encountered it much at all, in fact, and the idea of using gelatine has always been somehow intimidating. I’m not sure why; a brief experiment with it some years ago did not end well – mostly because it smelled awful and put me right off. However, I wanted to make something that would really showcase the wattleseed flavour and panna cotta seemed right. So, an experiment. Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 cup double cream
1/2 cup milk
40g caster sugar
3 leaves gelatine*
3 tsp ground wattleseed

You will need something to set the dessert in. I used 4 ramekins.
* The gelatine I used specifies 4 leaves per 1 pint liquid (soft set).

Method:

1. Put the gelatine leaves into a shallow bowl and cover with cold water.
2. Put the cream, milk, sugar and wattleseed in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, to near boiling.


3. Strain the infused cream into a jug. Wattleseed is like coffee grounds; you really don’t want it in your smooth, silky dessert. Strain through a fine sieve to leave a few flecks in the cream; strain through muslin to remove it all. (Note: I failed to strain this first attempt properly, because I was distracted being anxious about the gelatine. My panna cotta has sediment. It’s not awful, but I’ve never been one for crunching on coffee beans and would prefer it grounds-free – your mileage may vary.)
4. The gelatine should have become all soft and wobbly by now. Fish it out and stir into the hot cream, it should dissolve nicely.
5a. Optional: if you want to unmould the desserts later, oil the ramekins with flavourless oil!
5. Pour the mixture into ramekins, and let cool. When cold enough, pop into the fridge. Let set for minimum of 3 hours.
6. To serve, if unmoulding then run a knife round the ramekin and upend on to a plate. Otherwise, just provide a spoon!

(* http://www.thespicery.com)