Visiting the market after reading Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Total Perfection is always a reckless idea. Yes it usually results in delicious meals but more often than not, it also ends up burning a big hole in the pocket.
I went to the Turkish market in Kreuzberg just to look around and pick up some tomatoes for a compote and ended up with 3 days worth of food; plus enough tomatoes for a bathtub full of compote.
Heston Blumenthal’s Tomato Compote is an complex process of layering, mixing and creating the perfect flavour; but while I greatly admire him, and wanted to replicate the intricate details he’d so lovingly researched and planned; I just didn’t have the patience. So below is his recipe and method followed by my shortcut.
Heston Blumenthal’s Tomato Compote:
– 1.1kg vine-ripened tomatoes, 3 lg cloves garlic crushed, 1 large onion finely diced, 200ml extra virgin olive oil
– Seasoning: 1tsp salt, 4-5 drops Tabasco, 4-5 drops Fish sauce, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 heaped tbsp ketchup, 30ml sherry vinegar
– Spices: 1 heaped tsp coriander seeds, 1 star anise, 3 cloves, 1 bouquet garni (7 sprigs fresh thyme and 1 fresh bay leaf)
Blanche tomatoes then cool them in iced water. De-skin and cut in half. Scoop out seeds and membrane and roughly chop, then tip them into a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle over the salt and leave for 20 minutes to extract their juice. Discard seeds and membrane, reserve the juice. Roughly chop flesh and set aside.
Meanwhile fry onions and garlic in olive oil over a low heat. Cook for 10 -15 mins until soft but not coloured. Crush coriander and put into muslin bag with other spices, add to softened onions and garlic.
Take juice from the seeds and membrane and add to onions and garlic along with tomato flesh.
Add the seasoning and bouquet garni and cook over low heat for 2 hours. To add a roasted note to compote, add the remaining oil and turn up heat to high. Fry compote for 15-20 mins, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Pour off any oil not absorbed by compote.
Denise’s Imperfect Preparation:
– I didn’t bother blanching the tomatoes beforehand, nor removing the seeds and membrane.
– I threw in all the spices without a bag and fried them with the onions and garlic to bring out the flavours a little more.
– At the end of 2 hours I removed the herbs, star anise and cloves and roughly blended the sauce before frying.
It may not have been perfect but it was fabulous all the same. Tangy, savoury and rich.
I used the compote for a baked cannelloni which I have to admit was a cop-out of making Blumenthal’s Spaghetti Bolognaise.
– First lovingly carmelise onions with bacon (all the better to soak up some bacon fat) until soft, golden and sweet.
– Then mix with a tub of Mascarpone cheese (market was out of Ricotta) and stuff mixture into pasta shells
– Next layer a good amount of compote below and above the cannelloni in an oven-proof dish (just remember the pasta needs enough liquid to cook)
– Finish off with a generous grating of Parmesan on the top
– Bung into a 180 degree C oven for 35-40 mins
Since it was a bathtub full of compote, I had more than enough leftover. Blumenthal also suggested that it make a nice salad dressing, so I had some for lunch the next day with an early arugula salad and a gratinated parmesan, bacon, onion toasty (leftover bacon mascarpone stuffing from night before) .
Blumenthal’s methods may be too tedious for the everyday home cook, but by gosh when you finally get your act together to do it (no matter how imperfect), you’ll be very much rewarded!