Recipe: Fondue de tomates

Ingredients

100g shallots

500g confit tomatoes

2-3 garlic bulbs

250 ml veal stock (optional)

Salt

Herbes de Provence

Olive oil

A few pinches of sugar (optional)

Method

This is nothing like a meat fondue where you dip chunks of meat into boiling oil; nor is it a sauce tomato, one of Escoffier’s five Sauces meres, mother sauces.

It’s more like a tomato jam which you can use as a base for savoury tarts, or spread on croutons for a cocktail snack, or anywhere you fancy a smear of tomato-ey goodness.

Begin by confiting your tomatoes. Confit means preserve, usually in this case by drying them. Except you don’t want to completely dry your tomatoes, just get rid of some of the water from them. So, cut out the hard stalk base and then cut them in half horizontally and using your finger tips, scoop out the seeds and as much juice as you can. Put them cut-side up, salt them and sprinkle lightly with mixed herbs from Provence (dried basil, thyme, rosemary, whatever – it’s all good). Fresh is fine too if you prefer. Pop them into a low (80C) oven for two or three hours, until they look somewhat shriveled but not completely dried up.

Turn them over and pinch the skins between your thumb and forefinger and you’ll find the skins should just pull off. If they won’t come off you’ve not cooked them for long enough, so cook them a bit more. This avoids you having non-chewable bits of tomato skin in your sauce. Proper cooks do this by ‘monder’-ing their tomatoes – dunk them for a few seconds in boiling water, then into iced water, then peeling off the skin, then cutting them in half and removing the seeds. This is best attempted when you have that vital piece of kitchen equipment a ‘stagiaire’ – a work experience kid or intern.

So. Chop your shallots up finely and put them to sweat in a little olive oil in a hot pan. Oh, a tip here: put your pan on to heat first then, when it’s hot, add your oil. Do this so the pan is already thoroughly hot before heating the oil – otherwise the pan will have cold spots which will cool down the food you add, and you don’t want that. Even cooking is what we’re looking for.

While your shallots are sweating roughly chop up the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Sweat them whilst hacking them into smaller bits with with the edge of your wooden spatula.

Or you can cut out all the complicated bits above and use a tin of tomatoes. Your choice.

Add the sugar at the end if the sauce doesn’t taste sweet enough.

You can also add the veal stock if you like to give your fondue more body. This also works well for a sauce, e.g. Tomato sauce for a bolognaise. If you do add the stock, add it a ladleful at a time, reducing each ladleful down to almost nothing before adding another. This improves the flavour by not drowning the tomatoes and boiling them inside the stock.

You reduce the whole thing down until it’s the consistency you’re looking for – a bit more runny for a tart, perhaps, stickier for a spreading constituency. Up to you.

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