Tomato concassé

Tomato concassé is the flesh from fresh tomatoes that have been peeled, de-seeded and chopped into a dice. It is a staple of many professional kitchens used in sauces, omelettes, with olive oil, garlic, and basil as a topping for bruschetta and when added to Béarnaise sauce to make Choron sauce, served with fish and seafood. We remove tomato seeds and skin from Tomato concassé as in large quantities they can be tough, do not soften during cooking and leave a bitter flavour. If you can get hold of a moderate amount of ice it is very useful when cooling off the blanched tomatoes. Use fully ripe but firm tomatoes for the best results. The process may seem to be quite an effort but the end results for Tomato concassé are very pleasing and worthwhile.

To make tomato concassé

Bring a large pot of water, deep enough to generously cover your tomatoes, to a rolling boil.Take each tomato and using the tip of a small sharp knife or paring knife ( see picture ) remove the pith or tough part of the tomato where the stem used to be cutting out a circular hole.

Turn the tomato over and on the other end mark a small cross in the skin with the knife.

When all your tomatoes are prepared, place a four or five at a time into the pan the boiling water. As soon as the water returns to a boil cook for one-minute longer and then remove them using a slotted spoon or spider.

Immediately plunge the blanched tomatoes into a large bowl of very cold water to arrest the cooking process. If you have ice, use iced water. The cooking process depends on the size of tomatoes you are using, small tomatoes may only require thirty seconds simmering. A good rule of thumb is if you see the tomato skin beginning to peel off then take out and cool.

The next step will take a little practice. Drain the blanched tomatoes then using the sharp knife again gentle tease and peel off the skin. Start by slowly sliding the tip of the knife under the cross you made in the skin earlier and work down. When peeled quarter the tomatoes and remove the seed with a small spoon or the back of the knife. Chop the quartered tomatoes into large or small dice as required.

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Garlic

Fresh Garlic Cloves
Garlic Cloves

Garlic is one of the most popular aromatics used almost worldwide because of the flavour adds to dishes. Raw garlic has a very pungent, hot taste that mellows and becomes sweeter when cooked. Roasting garlic gives it a lovely delicate, nutty flavour. Propagation is by placing a single clove in the ground, for this plant to reach maturity will take around five months depending on the growing conditions. It is best to grow garlic in a sunny location that is well drained. Garlic is a major ingredient in Asian influenced dishes such as stir-fries and curries, as a classic flavouring in Mediterranean cooking for soups, sauces and casseroles and pairs perfectly with onions, tomatoes, chilli, ginger, basil, chicken, pork, and seafood.

Strings of Garlic Bulbs
Fresh Garlic Bulbs

Slaves building the pyramids were given garlic to give them strength. The first workers strike then occurred when, to save money, the garlic was removed from their diet. During World War I soldiers depended on garlic for its antiseptic properties and it has been used for a long time to fight colds and coughs.  There is an old Spanish proverb that says, “where you find garlic, you find good health.” The same chemical that gives garlic its pungent aroma reacts with bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath. A good way to counteract this smell is to eat parsley or to drink milk while you are eating the garlic.

 

Coriander

Fresh Coriander Leaves
Fresh Coriander Leaves

In cooking, we can use all of the coriander plant, its leaves and stems, the seeds and the roots and each has its own distinct flavour. Coriander is native to the Mediterranean but is used in cuisines throughout the world and is an essential ingredient in Thai, Mexican, Moroccan and Indian cuisine and is found as the fresh leaves, roots or the spice from the ground down seeds in classic curries, salsas, stir-fries, tagines, and fajitas. Coriander pairs well with chicken, beef, chilli, lemongrass, garlic, mint, fish sauce and soy sauce.

Dried Coriander Seeds
Coriander Seeds

Coriander is an annual plant grown from its seeds. There are references to coriander in the Old Testament of the bible and they were found in the tomb of the legendary Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. In the past coriander has been used to treat migraines and indigestion to help purify the blood and to relieve nausea, pain in joints and rheumatism. The dried seeds have a sweet and spicy flavour while the leaves of coriander are zesty, with a strong citrus and peppery flavours. Coriander leaves are best added at the end of cooking or as a garnish on dish as high heat can quickly discolour them and kills the fresh flavours.

Chives

chives 3

Chives are a member of the same plant family as onions, leeks, garlic, and spring onions and grow wild all over Europe and North America. The flowers are edible, but it is the stems that are popular in a variety of national cuisines most especially in French cooking. Chives taste and smell mildly of onion and are delicious in potato, cheese, and egg dishes. Chives are a hardy plant that can survive cold winters and will cope with drought and wet weather. They are a perennial that will regrow after cuttings. Chives will grow in early spring, sprouting a slightly mauve coloured flower.

Vibrant Green Chive Oil
A great garnish for soups

Chives can be used to make a wonderfully vibrant, flavoured oil with which you can decorate soup and fish dishes and make delicious herby salad dressings. You may think the amount of chives in the recipe seems to be quite a lot but it makes for a really impressive colour.

Chive Oil

120 g Chives

300 ml Vegetable Oil 

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Bring a large pan of very lightly salted water to the boil. Blanch chives in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a spider and plunge into a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. When the chives have chilled, drain and remove any excess moisture by patting gently with kitchen paper. Place the blanched chives, seasoning, and oil into a high-speed food processor and blitz to a fine purée. Careful—over-blending can turn the chives brown, then pass through a fine-mesh strainer or muslin cloth. Reserve in the fridge and shake well before serving.

Vermouth

French Dry Vermouth
A popular French ‘dry’ Vermouth great with fish and shellfish

The vermouth that we now drink and cook with now was first produced in the 18th century in Italy. It was originally used as a treatment for stomach disorders, then became popular aperitif in the cafes of Turin. It then became a key ingredient in cocktails such as the Negroni, the Manhattan and perhaps most famously the Martini. There two main types are sweet and dry vermouth which are made from a base wine flavoured with amongst other ingredients cloves, cinnamon, citrus peel, cardamom, chamomile, coriander, hyssop, juniper, and ginger, fortified with a spirit, such as grape brandy and sweetened with cane sugar. The exact recipe for each vermouth is kept secret by the individual manufacturers.

Vermouth can be substituted for white wine in cooking but because of the aromatic flavours it can overpower more delicate ingredients. It is most often used in recipes for oysters, scallops, and fish, but also compliments fennel, pork, and chicken. Perhaps the most famous dish with vermouth is Sole Veronique, poached fillets of sole in a vermouth cream sauce garnished with skinned, deseeded green grapes.

Cooking with Vermouth

Coquilles St. Jacques

Chilled Salmon, Cucumber, and Dill Soup

Seafood Tarts

Jersey Mussel, Smoked Haddock, and Prawn Chowder

Rosemary

Rosemary has a complex mix of flavours; mint, sage, peppery, with a slightly bitter aftertaste and a woodland aroma it is perfect in many Mediterranean dishes and partners well with grilled or roasted meats such as lamb and chicken and roasted vegetables and potatoes. Rosemary is great in herb stuffing with dried apricots and nuts for turkey or pork and makes great skewers for meat or fish on a barbeque imparting a slight mustard flavour. Rosemary has small blue flowers the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the “Rose of Mary”.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial herb that grows to roughly a metre and a half in height and thrives in warm, dry environments. Rosemary can be used as a deterrent from insects so you can add it to a fire if you are camping. It includes moths, so you can place some rosemary in your cupboards and drawers as an organic repellent. In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary around their heads to stimulate memory and recent studies have shown that sniffing rosemary can, in fact, help a person improve their ability to remember events and complex tasks. So, Shakespeare was right in Hamlet when he referenced rosemary “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray you, love, remember.”

Dill

When Dill is growing it looks very similar to Fennel, and they share a similar aniseed flavour, however, Dill’s is sweeter and gentler. Dill grows annually and is best planted in cool, sunny sheltered locations. After flowering, the dill plant will die. Plant new seeds before the next season. Dill pairs beautifully with seafood, smoked salmon, potatoes, eggs, fish, and carrots and is used extensively in Scandinavian cuisine.

Dill

Dill was used by the ancient Greeks and Roman and is mentioned in St Matthew’s Gospel, and by medieval times, dill was commonly used as a culinary herb as well as a pickling spice. Dill or dill oil is a major ingredient in Gripe water used to calm infant digestive systems and reduce wind. The word dill originates from a Saxon word meaning to lull, as dill has a calming effect.