Tomatoes a la Creme

Tomatoes a la Creme

Tomatoes a la Creme, although originating from France in the 1920s, has been a popular dish in many countries for decades. Inciting romantic verse and fond memories from grown-up children who recall happy moments in the kitchen watching their mothers and grandmothers make and serve the simple but delicious dish.

Maybe the thing that gets to the heart of people with Tomatoes a la Creme is the simplicity of ingredients. Tomatoes, butter and cream are easy to obtain all year round and when put together carefully, result in rich satisfying flavours that resemble dishes with much longer cooking times and a hint of dreamy sunlit days in the countryside.

The cooking technique is key: don’t kill it will too much heat. Gentle heat and slow cooking will soften the tomatoes, allowing the juices to flow into the pan and add the wonderful base flavour to the butter and cream. Although adequate seasoning of salt and pepper will complete the recipe, adding a few leaves of thyme or basil enhances the dish nicely as well. Serve with crusty bread or as a side to meat and fish.

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 medium-size ripe tomatoes
A large knob of butter
Salt and pepper
3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche or double cream
Thyme leaves or basil (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Cut tomatoes in half and prick all over with a fork. Melt butter in a skillet and add tomatoes cut side up. Cook for 2 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  2. Turn tomatoes over, lower heat and cook for 10 minutes. All the juices should be running out into the butter. (If you wanted to add some thyme leaves now would be the time to do it).
  3. Add cream and let it gently bubble away for a minute or two, ensuring the sauce does not dry out.
  4. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper.
  5. If you are using basil as a garnish instead of thyme then sprinkle with chopped basil now.

Tomatoes a la Creme

beef ragu

Slow Cooked Beef Ragu with Red Wine, Porcini Mushrooms and Bone Marrow

This is a truly satisfying and comforting dish that warms the belly and heart. Slow-Cooked Beef Ragu with Bone Marrow served on pappardelle pasta. The rich sauce is infused with porcini mushrooms and red wine then topped with parmesan and olive oil. Beef brisket is a wonderfully cheap cut of beef that benefits from slow cooking and melds easily into a rich sauce, resulting in plenty of flavour.

Ingredients:

800gm beef braising steak
Olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 celery stick, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Small bunch each of rosemary, thyme and oregano, leaves removed and finely chopped (substitute 1 tsp dried oregano if fresh unavailable).
1 tsp dried chilli flake
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms plus boiling water
2 glasses red wine
300ml beef stock
2 x 400gm tinned tomatoes
2 marrow bone pieces (approx 10cm)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
Fresh or dried pappardelle
Parmesan cheese and olive oil for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat some olive oil in a crockpot, le creuset or other stove top casserole pot. Fry braising steak briefly on a high heat until browned. Remove from and set aside.
  2. Add onions to the pan and cook until soft. Next the grated carrot, celery, garlic, chilli flakes, and herbs continuing to cook over a low heat for 5 minutes or until softened.
  3. Place porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes. Once ready drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Chop mushroom into small pieces. Strain liquid to remove any grit and reserve for cooking.
  4. Return beef to pot along with red wine, bring to boil then turn to simmer and let it bubble until most of the liquid has cooked away.
  5. Next add beef stock, tinned tomatoes, porcini mushrooms and their liquid and cracked black pepper. Bring to the boil. Then cover and turn to simmer. Cook for 2 – 3 hours depending on your stove and cooking pan. The ragu is ready when the sauce has reduced down to a thick consistency and the beef is soft and pulls apart into juicy strands.
  6. While the ragu is simmering away, heat oven to 200 degrees. Place bone marrow on a tray and roast for 20 minutes. When cooled down scoop marrow out of bones and set aside.
  7. Boil water with some salt and cook pappardelle according to packet instructions. Drain when ready reserving some of the cooking liquid.
  8. To finish the sauce, at the end of cooking stir in the bone marrow and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring through until melted along with some of the pasta cooking liquid to loosen the ragu. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  9. Divide pappardelle into bowls, cover with ragu, grated parmesan and drizzle with good quality olive oil.

beef ragu

Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus, Courgette & Mozzarella in Lemon Basil Oil

Italians treat vegetables with love and care, respecting the art of cooking them without adding meat due to historically not affording the luxury on a regular basis. It’s a fact that vegetables leave you feeling lighter, digest easier and the nutrition from greens is a must to keep you going.

This Italian recipe, classically grilled and charred vegetables doused in good quality olive oil, basil and lemon is deeply satisfying. The bread has to be superior, white, oily and crusty on the outside. Rubbed with oil, grilled and then rubbed again with garlic, the delicious base lays the foundation for the crunchy charred green vegetables topping.

I made this for lunch, stacked on toast. For a dinner option try adding cannelloni beans, or spiralled pasta and a little parmesan to beef (!) it up.

Grilled Asparagus

 

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS:

Olive Oil
200gm asparagus
1 courgette, sliced into thin strips
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
125g buffalo mozzarella
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp basil
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
1 tbsp lemon rind
Good quality bread for toasting
1 garlic clove

 

METHOD:

  1. Heat griddle pan on stovetop.
  2. Put sliced onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain. This will help take the overpowering onion taste away.
  3. Rub asparagus and courgette in a little olive oil. Griddle in pan until soft and charred lines appear.
  4. To make dressing, mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, lemon rind, chopped capers, salt and pepper and whisk together with a fork.
  5. Tear buffalo mozzarella into medium sized pieces.
  6. When vegetables are ready, place in a bowl along with the onion and some additional salt and pepper.
  7. Cut bread into thin or thick slices (whatever you prefer). Rub with a little olive oil. Griddle in pan until browned and charred lines appear. Cut garlic clove in half and use it to rub each piece of toast.
  8. Pour dressing over courgette asparagus mixture, coat evenly. Next add in mozzarella.
  9. Serve in a bowl or large plate alongside toasted garlic bread