This was one of the recipes I wrote for The Sunday Times. The others were published in August 2009, but this one had to be dropped at the last minute because there wasn't space. As it's always been one of my favourites, I've included it here.
Gelée de Tomates
Tomato jelly sounds like something you might have with peanut butter, so I’ve stuck with the French name. Sorry if it seems pretentious. The recipe isn’t. It’s tomato heaven: an essence-like concentration of flavour, soft-set and opaque, rather than bouncy and jewel-clear. Serve it as an accompaniment or relish with almost anything savoury, but especially cool, summery food such as prawns, fish, charcuterie, chicken, grilled peppers, aubergines, mozzarella or goat’s cheese. Or just plonk some on good bread and eat with olives.
You can either set it in a bowl or two jam jars and scoop it out with a spoon to serve, or use a container from which you can turn it out and serve it in slices or wedges (I have a square, tupperware-type tub, 11 x 11 cm and 6.5 cm deep).
A couple of notes on ingredients. The amounts of sugar and lemon below are for moderately flavoursome, slightly underripe tomatoes, so, if you have riper, more flavoursome ones, start with less sugar and be ready to increase the lemon. Secondly, I find gelatine sheets easier than powder, but whichever you have, use the amount the packet says for setting 1 pint of liquid (imperial lives on in the gelatine world). Makes approximately 2 jars; serves about 12
1 kg large flavoursome tomatoes 6-7 sprigs of thyme (or tarragon) 1 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice ¼ tsp sea salt freshly ground pepper gelatine sheets or powder - to set 1 pt of liquid 2-3 basil or mint leaves to garnish (optional)
Cut them in half horizontally and remove the seeds with a teaspoon, putting the seeds in a sieve over a basin. Chop the flesh, discarding the woody bit of core at the stem, and put the tomato in a saucepan with the thyme, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Press the seeds lightly with the back of a spoon. Add the juice from the basin to the pan.
Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 25-45 minutes to reduce, stirring occasionally to check that it’s not sticking. You want to end up with about three-quarters of a pint (425ml), enough to fill two jam jars. How long this takes depends on the variety and ripeness of the tomato (ie how juicy and how hard they are).
Remove the herbs. Season with pepper. If there are still firm pieces of tomato, pulse very briefly in a food processor or liquidiser (don’t overdo it) and then put it back in the saucepan or in a bowl.
Prepare the gelatine according to the packet instructions and stir it in to the tomato. Decant into your chosen container, leave to cool, then refrigerate. If unmoulding, decorate with basil or mint.
Original photograph by Rob White