michelin style tomato consommé


this takes a bit of effort, a muslin (ask your wife or mother), and quite a bit of patience, but the clear consommé that results is like the purest distillation of tomatoes I've ever tasted. It's almost translucent, and the extraction process makes me think of Patrick Süskind's 'Perfume'...

Süskind's protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is born without scent, but has an extraordinary capacity to smell others. He becomes obsessed with bottling the scent of human beings, which takes him along a path of horrifying extremes. But this fascinating and memorable literary foray distracts me. 

This tomato consommé is very simple to make, and on a warm day is the perfect way to tingle your taste buds before tucking into a more substantial light lunch. It needs fresh horseradish (you may have seen some in KPS recently), and don't shortcut this most important of ingredients. I omitted the vodka for the sake of my 'bump', and although it wasn't as bloody mary like as it should be, it was still delicious. 

Ingredients for 6

large bunch of basil, pick the leaves and keep the stalks
2kg ripe tomatoes
1 x 5cm piece of fresh horseradish - peel & roughly chop
1/2 clove garlic, peeled
1 - 2 tblsp good quality red wine vinegar
a couple of shots of vodka
1 slice of ready cooked beetroot (for colour)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Once you've picked the basil leaves, reserve them to one side and put them in the fridge. Then put all the tomatoes, basil leaves and stalks, horseradish, garlic, vinegar, vodka, beetroot, and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a blender. (I was using my Magimix and had to do this in two batches). Whiz up until you have a slushy mixture that smells yummy. Have a taste and if you think it needs more horseradish, add some more. The stick I bought in KPS was quite mild, so you may find a bit more necessary. 

Line a big mixing bowl with a double layer of muslin. Pour the tomato mixture into it. Pull the corners of the muslin together and tie them in a knot. Tie very securely as it is going to be hanging from this knot for 5 - 7 hours. Use a butcher's hook or secure tightly with string, and hang from a hook above your mixing bowl in a cool place. The liquid will slowly drip out - a clear, delicious essence. 

After 5 - 7 hours, taste the liquid and see if it needs more seasoning. If it does, hold off on the pepper, but do add salt. You could also add a dash more vodka depending on the company you are expecting to share this with! 

To serve, drizzle over some very good quality olive oil, and throw in your reserved basil leaves. On a very hot day, add a little block of ice.