Tag Archives: tomato

Lunchbox no.2

To those of you who have sent me lunch box ideas, thank you very much. Indeed, thanks to all of you who send recipes, thoughts, suggestions in. The thing is that I tend not to plan what I’m cooking, but more deal with what I’ve got to hand, so I’m a bit crap at actually going out and shopping for the recipes you have sent me, all of which sound delicious – Fred’s coronation partridge, Adam’s chicken with sherry and cream (must try asap, sounds right up my street), and Jack’s squirrel in breadcrumbs. Time will come when I’ll try these things (well, maybe not the squirrel).

I did, however, try one recipe given to me by a girl on my course, Eve, for Ackee and Salt fish. Apparently this is the quintessential Jamaican dish, and so I spent a frankly nightmarish hour in Tesco extra trying to rootle out these ingredients. If you’re familiar with French, or indeed Eastern European cookery, salt fish shouldn’t be too controversial a notion. The Russians eat the stuff as it comes, cardiac-arrestingly brackish and verging on the inedible, washed down with vodka. The French are rather more delicate with their morue – salt cod – gently poaching it in milk and herbs before mixing it with mashed potato to make a brandade.

The Jamaican method is somewhere in between the two, retaining the essence of the salt fish rather more than the French, but not erring into the ghoulish chewing on something that looks more like a giant’s crusty sock than something one would want to eat that the Russians go for. You boil the salt fish in water, drain, cool and remove skin and bone. Chop up some onions, chilli and tomatoes and soften in oil for ten minutes. Ackee is a fruit that comes in a tin, which looks somewhere in between cod’s roe and rooster’s testicles (if you have ever seen rooster’s testicles) but tastes rather better. Anyway, you drain this, chuck it in with the vegetables, simmer for 10 minutes with the fish and serve with rice. It was pretty good – I was pleasantly surprised – but with a blizzard blowing outside it just didn’t feel right. Maybe I’ll give it a proper write up when I give it proper attention. I fear I let it down, so wouldn’t want to pass this on.

Meantime, it’s about time I posted another lunchbox. Yesterday I sat hungry in a language class, ruminating over what I might have for lunch. The fridge at home was bare, and seeing as I only had half an hour for lunch, resigned myself to forking out £5 for a sandwich. Remembering, however, the half carton of chopped tomatoes in the fridge and the tin of butterbeans in the cupboard, I came upon the most frugal, quickest, yet most delicious of lunches. Soup is a great lunchbox fallback – improves when made ahead, and can be quite easily popped in the microwave.

Tomato and butterbean soup

Serves 1

200g good chopped tomatoes
1 tin of butter beans
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Small handful of parsley, chopped
A little grated parmesan
Good olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar

Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Pour in the tomatoes, drain the butterbeans and add to the pan with the chilli flakes if using. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley, parmesan, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

PS – if you have a must-do recipe, take a picture of it and email it to me – jteramsden@hotmail.com – and I’ll put it up, I promise.

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Cold nights, so long… [spiced pepper and lentil soup]

Blimey it’s cold. I returned from a scintillating Italian oral class yesterday and practically fell upon the washing up, principally as a means of warming my ruddy hands. It’s the sort of weather that calls for hot, spicy soup. Soup that warms the heart and puts a spring in your step. And there is proper stock in the fridge from last week’s roast chicken, a more successful stock than that of some friends…

On Sunday night I went to their house for roast chicken, a real treat after an academically unproductive but quite ‘heavy’ weekend. I discovered the next morning that they had forgotten about the stock they put on and left it overnight, waking the next morning to a flat that was practically vibrating with the stench of charred chicken carcass. The place now has a police line around it.

Anyway, the soup….you might want to add a tin of tomatoes to this just to add another layer – I almost reckon you should, I just didn’t have one at the time.

Spiced pepper and lentil soup

Serves 2-3

1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot chilli powder
2 peppers (red, yellow, orange all fine – avoid green)
100g red lentils
1 tin of tomatoes
750ml hot chicken or vegetable stock (cubed is grand)
Salt, pepper and sugar
Yoghurt to finish

Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Season and cook, covered, over a gentle heat for 5 minutes or so. Remove the lid and increase the flame. Stir in the chilli powder for 30 seconds, then add the peppers, lentils and tomatoes. Stir for a minute or two to get them going, then add the stock. Season with a little sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked (no al dente here, please) and liquidize. Taste for seasoning and serve with a blob of yoghurt. Will keep a human body warm for 1-2 hours. Top up as needed.

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A glut of tomatoes [tomato chilli jam]

It’s getting to the time of year when you might, if you’re very lucky, have a bundle of tomatoes leftover and, if you’re unlucky, slowly edging towards a state of inedibility in the larder. I’m not going to pretend you’re having a headache about what to do with them, as there are a million freezable things to do with a tomato. Pasta sauce bases are the obvious ones – in Italy they might set three or four days aside for the annual tomato prulping, dragging dusty machines from the cupboards that will skin and seed the fruits quicker than you can say ‘penne alla arabbiata’ (not that quick, then) and making enough passata to last till the following autumn.

But I can’t be doing with the faffing about of skinning and seeding the things. It’s certainly worth it in some circumstances. A tomato salad, for example, is improved immeasurably by being skinless. To peel a tomato, by the way, you want to cut a cross in the skin at the base of the fruit, pour boiling water over it and leave to sit for a minute or two – a riper tomato shouldn’t need more than a minute. Drain the water, allow to cool and pull off the skin. But I’m not doing that now, because it’s a weekday evening and I can’t be arsed. I just want something quick and delicious to go with the sea bass I am eating for supper. This recipe can be made in the quantities you are dealing with – it’s really a case of approximation, feeling your way through quantities. This is for 500g tomatoes or so, but if you have 5 kg, go for it. As long as you are careful with the vinegar and chilli you will be fine. The jam is absolutely delicious with fish, sausages, cold meat, or added to a pasta sauce.

Oh, another note on tomatoes. They are best kept as far away from the fridge as possible. Picture biting into a cold tomato – not very nice eh? Hard and insipid, not exactly an enjoyable mouthful. Stored at room temperature, or even above (as, of course, it would be on the vine) a tomato will ripen, redden, and be a completely different eating experience.

Tomato chilli jam

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
500g tomatoes, cut into chunks
50 ml red wine vinegar
200 ml red wine
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper

In a non stick pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the rosemary and garlic. Stir for a minute or two and add the tomatoes, vinegar, wine, sugar and chilli flakes. Season well with salt and pepper and bring to a strong simmer. Leave to bubble away for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced completely and you have a thick, dark, unctuous consistency. Taste for seasoning, and add a little more sugar if necessary. Serve hot or cold.

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