Sunday, May 01, 2011

To The Best of My Knowledge...

Although most tomato based sauces for pasta are pre-cooked before using, it's worth remembering that as long as the pasta is piping hot when the sauce is added, this heats it up, and starting with the 'raw' sauce gives it a much more refreshing flavour. The tomatoes can be peeled or left unpeeled.
Raw Tomato (pasta) Sauce: serves 4
6 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
good pinch sugar
2 tblsp chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
4 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
Put the garlic, sugar, seasoning to taste into a mortar and grind down with a pestle to make a paste then, stir in the oil and vinegar. Mix well then add the tomatoes and toss well (alternatively mix all ingredients together in a food processor - set on 'pulse' to avoid over-pureeing). Cover, and leave to stand for 15 minutes at room temperature (not the fridge) to allow flavours to develop. Then use in the normal way.

Dried tomatoes are always useful as they store quite well. Here are two ways to make these, one 'dried' in the normal way - these keeping the longest. The first is for 'semi-dried', which should be used within a month of making.

Semi-dried tomatoes: serves 4 - 8
12 ripe tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
salt and pepper
1 tbslp finely chopped oregano/marjoram
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
Cut the prepared tomatoes in half (to make quarters) and place on a baking sheet, Season with the salt and pepper, herbs and then drizzle a little oil over.
Put in the oven, set to the lowest heat, and leave until most of the moisture has gone, this should take between 3 - 4 hours. When ready, put tomatoes into clean, sterilized jars and cover with oil, shaking the jar to remove any air bubbles. Store in the fridge and use within a month.

Dried Tomatoes;
Similar to above but with no herbs and with no oil drizzled over before putting in the oven possibly means they dry out more, so worth making when you have a glut of tomatoes, using as many as you wish. Halve, seed and quarter the tomatoes and sprinkle the insides with salt and sugar, place cut side up on a baking tray and place in the oven set at the lowest heat and leave to dry out for 3 - 4 hours. Check after the first two hours. The tomatoes should end up dark red, moisture free, but still 'bendy'(pliable). These are said to keep for several weeks in an airtight container, longer if stored in sterilized jars then covered with oil. Both should be stored in the fridge.

This next recipe is for savoury muffins using either dried tomatoes (above) or fresh.
Tomato and Cheese Muffins: makes 12
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
8 fl oz (225ml) milk
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
20 pieces dried tomato, chopped
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar (or similar)cheese
Sift the flour, B.P and salt together into a bowl. Put the milk in a jug with the eggs and melted butter and beat together, then stir in the tomatoes and cheese. Mix the 'wet' with the 'dry' (doesn't matter which is added to which), then mix well.
Spoon into muffin cases either in a muffin tray or standing on a baking sheet, filling almost (or just) to the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and golden, and firm to the touch. Cool, but best eaten while still a little warm, and as freshly made as possible. Muffins are always best eaten the day of baking.