21 September 2014

My Basic Tomato Sauce

At the moment we have a bit of a glut of tomatoes from plants that Caroline grew from seed. They are a relatively mealy kind and therefore better in a sauce than in a salad. This sauce can be (and is) made in bulk and can easily be frozen for later use. It works well on its own with a bit of freshly chopped basil added before serving or as a base for any other sauce using tomatoes (including a pizza topping!).

What you need

  • 2 – 3 kilos of tomatoes, quartered or grated (helps to get rid of the tough skins)
  • olive oil to cover the bottom of a heavy pan
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3+ cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp tandoori masala or paste (bhalti masala/paste works well too)
  • 1 tbsp “oriental” spice mix (see below)
  • 2 cubes/2 tbps vegetable stock
  • 150-200 ml white wine
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt to taste

What you do

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and when it is hot, fry the onions, the garlic and the tandoori mix/paste.
  2. Add the quartered or grated tomatoes and the white wine and simmer until the tomatoes disintegrate (at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better), stirring occasionally.
  3. With a fork, pick out the floating tomato peels.
  4. Add the honey and blend with a mixer; you may want to add the garlic now (or add more garlic now, if you want the flavour more pronounced.
  5. Allow to cool make portions and freeze the sauce.

The oriental spice mix could contain such spices as coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, curcuma, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seed, chili, sea salt etc.; some of these are also found in a curry masala like tandoori. If you are not really into these kinds of flavours, leave the tandoori or the oriental spice mix out.

11 September 2014

Risotto sort of "Caprese"

One of my favourite dishes is “insalata caprese”, this perfect mixture of flavours and textures that in my view is so typical of Italian cuisine. A few weeks ago, in summer, I was in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, where the cherry tomatoes were ripe and fresh off the bush, and I came across this dish, which I have tried to recreate. It combines elements of insalata caprese with a rich risotto.
A former neighbour of ours was Italian and she once made a risotto in a high-walled frying pan at 11:30 pm, as a midnight snack. I was amazed at how little time this took. In this recipe I have used one too, partly because it works well for the final cooking part…

What you need

  • 350 g risotto rice (for example Arborio)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion finely chopped
  • 100 ml of good white wine
  • vegetable broth
  • 2+ cloves of garlic
  • grated parmesan cheese to taste (not pictured)
  • about 20 ripe cherry tomatoes (or thickly sliced marzano tomatoes as I had no cherries)
  • 200 g buffalo mozzarella, finely sliced
  • 2 good sprigs of basil cut into fine stripes
  • a drizzle of dry sherry (optional)
  • Cheese spice mix (optional)

What you do

  1. Sauté the onions in olive oil, then add the rice and stir until it looks glassy. (Do not let it brown!)
  2. Add the wine and stir, then slowly add the broth as and when needed. If you like a creamy risotto, stir as much as you can; if you prefer a more grainy one, stir as little as possible.
  3. Just before the end of the cooking period (when the rice grains are not hard in the centre anymore), press in the garlic; this way it retains its pungency.
  4. When the risotto is done, dent the surface and put a cherry tomato into each dent.
  5. Distribute the mozzarella over the top and season with the cheese spice mix (if using).
  6. Put under the grill until the mozzarella has melted or even browned ever so slightly.
  7. Drizzle the sherry over the bits of rice that are still visible if it has dried out under the grill.
  8. At the very last minute before serving, add the basil leaves.