Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Tomato Salad

It would seem to be a very simple thing to make a tomato salad - and it can be a very boring end result too.  But this one isn't.  The key to any salad containing tomatoes is that the tomatoes should be at ROOM TEMPERATURE!  Excuse my shouting but the number of times I have been to a restaurant and been served freezing cold tomatoes would make you think that even the professionals don't know this most basic of salad facts.  Cold tomatoes are tasteless and bland.  Bring them up to room temperature and their flavour is magically revealed... don't ask me why but its a fact, try it yourself and be amazed how much nicer your tomatoes are.... even better if you have grown them yourself.  Ours are not ready for eating yet... but when they are... it will be tomato salad every day until we are truly fed up with it.

First chop up very finely a salad onion or a shallot.  Sadly shallots seem to be totally foreign around here and the best I can do is a Cebolleta... which is a very large spring onion.  Next slice thinly about four or five tomatoes, there should be roughly slightly more tomato than onion.

Mix the tomato and onion together and add some very finely chopped garlic (1 clove should be enough).  This is your opportunity to make those fancy chopping noises with your knife on the chopping board, the kind that makes people think you know what you are doing, even if you don't!

Mix the garlic in and then squeeze a whole lemon over the top of the salad and dribble some good olive oil on top.

Now at this point you should garnish it with some coriander however ours has gone to seed so I picked some fresh basil instead.

Tomato and basil is a classic right?  I chopped the basil with a knife - yes I have heard that you should only tear it... what nonsense... I have done both and the result is exactly the same and since ours is Greek basil with the narrow leaves it isn't so easy to tear so the knife it was!

Leave the salad to infuse for several hours (at least 2 or 3) at room temperature.  If you don't have one of these to cover it with you could use clingfilm or a plate but don't be tempted to put it in the fridge.

et Voila!... lunch with some crusty bread and small glass of vino.  All you need now is some sunshine and you could be on holiday.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Gazpacho! Summer Food!

The temperature outside is over 30C... by next month it will be reaching 40C on a regular basis.  No one feels much like eating in weather that hot.  Unless it's gazpacho that is!

They make this all over Spain and each region has its own take on it.  We had some recently at a restaurant right near the Portuguese border and it was made with Pennyroyal... loads of it along with raw onion and peppers chopped very small.  The overall effect was very minty.  If you are a fan of mint (which I am not) then you would no doubt find it very refreshing on a hot summers day.

The Ingredients
75g bread, crusts removed.
1kg of plum tomatoes (currently 1 euro 45 per kg here but by the end of the summer we shall be able to buy 3kg for 1euro on the market.)
2 large garlic cloves
a large pinch of ground cumin
a teaspoon of salt
6 or 7 tblsp of good olive oil
vinegar to taste.


Soak the bread in enough water to cover for 15 minutes or so then squeeze the excess water out and put the wet bread into a food processor.

Skin the tomatoes and add to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil and vinegar.

Now... I have a real bugbear when it comes to skinning tomatoes.  All the recipes say that if you pop them into hot water for a minute or two the skins just come right off.  Nope.  That has never worked well for me.  I find I have to pierce the tomato skin in several places and then leave it in a pan of boiling water (while it continues to boil) for a good few minutes.  This does make the tomatoes warm - but otherwise I don't get the skins off without a lot of hassle so needs must.

Process until very smooth and then while the motor is running pour in the olive oil.  The gazpacho should turn paler in colour as the olive oil emulsifies into it.

Stop the machine and take the lid off.  Add the vinegar (a couple of tablespoonfuls first) and taste.  Keep adding a little more vinegar until you get the taste just slightly tart.  It should taste refreshing.

Add a little water if it is too thick.  How much?  Mmmm the advice is that it should be neither thick nor thin... does that help?

Put into a bowl in the fridge to chill and then serve it very cold with an ice cube or two in the centre of each bowl.  In some parts they add finely chopped onion, green pepper and more tomatoes to serve.  You could experiment with yoghurt or creme fraiche in the middle... and maybe some basil leaves to garnish... mmmm... that would be nice.  I love Gazpacho. There is nothing more refreshing on a very hot day.  Enjoy.