Monday, February 22, 2010

I SAY TOMATO - Middle Eastern Summer Tomato Jam

I’ve just picked my first tomato, and yes I’m feeling quite proud about it. I walked into the house beaming from ear to ear and everyone thought I’d won Lotto. Instead, I’d hit the growers’ jackpot – three little cherry tomatoes. Reaping the rewards of your own efforts in the vegetable garden gives a wonderful sense of achievement but particularly so with a tomato. It’s watching it flower then fruit, the slow turn from green to red and if you’ve done everything well and it has drunk its fill of the sun, then the result can be spectacular. Sweet and juicy, a little tart and incredibly versatile.

My husband treats tomatoes literally as fruit, eating it like an apple, usually leaning over the sink with juice dripping all over my nice clean kitchen bench. My first cherry tomatoes didn’t get any special treatment, I ate them, just popped them in my mouth and it was glorious. And that was my reward for the hard yards, every Saturday I fed it tomato fertiliser, I staked it and picked off leaves to let the sun shine on the bunches of fruit. I nurtured it and it in turn, is now nurturing me. Delicious!

Recently on a research trip to Sydney (it’s a necessary part of food development...) I experienced a dish that took tomatoes to a whole new level – an heirloom tomato salad at Becasse. Becasse is Justin North’s restaurant, the Blenheim born chef who won last year’s Sydney Morning Herald Chef of the Year. North has an intensely romantic relationship with food, he is full of respect and awe for the simplest of ingredient and his menu reflects that. Working with boutique suppliers and markets, he selects the finest examples and then works to enhance natural flavours. And thus, it is Justin North who has ruined me for every tomato salad.


Heirloom tomatoes are growing in popularity; traditionally naturally cultivated they are not the stuff of commercial growers. North’s tomatoes were bright red and yellow, green striped, deep plum, there was olive oil sorbet and the most intensely flavoured basil pebbles (a touch of molecular gastronomy). It was simply spectacular and as you can see, exceptionally beautiful.

We all have tins of chopped tomatoes in our pantries because it’s a meal in a can – soups, pastas, slow braises, a quick Spanish chicken or an Italian inspired fish casserole. But if you’re growing them, or buying them cheaply at this time of the year when they are most abundant, you can preserve them yourself to enjoy them all year long.

I’m giving you a Middle Eastern inspired summer tomato jam recipe because it goes spectacularly well with so many things, and is as valuable in my kitchen as tinned tomatoes. Spoon it over grilled or roasted chicken, fish or lamb. Pour it over browned chicken thighs and bake for a great casserole. Pile on top of hot grilled garlicky ciabatta with your own beef burger and haloumi for a stunning Sunday night open sandwich. Heat the tomato through slightly and dollop it on toast with poached eggs and toasted cumin for a seriously good brunch (accompanied by a bloody Mary.) I’m getting hungry just thinking about I’m off out the back garden to the tomato vine. Bottle this jam and seal it, it keeps for at least 6 months. Cook it & Love it.


2 tablespoons oil
1 onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1.5 kg tomato, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
freshly ground white pepper

Place the onion, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon in a pot with the oil and cook for 5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and slowly bring to a simmer, reduce for about 30 minutes and check seasoning.

The amount of cayenne, salt and pepper is entirely personal.

The jam is ready once it has thickened.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

SOMETHING TO WINE ABOUT - Slow braise of duck with pinot noir

We just catered for a stunning wedding in Wanaka over the weekend and I’m reminded how truly wonderful that part of New Zealand is. Otago gets me every time, I simply never tire of its incredible landscapes, bright yellows and oranges, lakes and poplars. And hey, let’s be completely honest here, I certainly never tire of its pinot noirs.

The wedding was held at Rippon Vineyard, the marquee positioned between vines and facing straight out to Mt Aspiring, the lake, Wanaka township and around to Treble Cone. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it. At dessert service not a guest was to be found in the marquee, all standing out the front jaws on the ground watching a spectacular sunset over the mountains. With a Rippon Pinot Noir in their hands...

See? Try as I might to talk about the scenery et al, I cannot help but return to the nectar of Otago – its pinot noir. New Zealand is becoming as well known for its pinots as Australia is for its shiraz. Increasingly at events our clients are happy to serve just one red and when once it was a blend, now it’s a pinot.

And thus, we cook with it. Pinot noir is a great wine to add depth to your cooking where appropriate particularly if you’re making a special effort to match the food. We use it in our reductions over rich Canterbury red meats or we make pinot syrup lightly lifted with cinnamon and orange zest for poaching rhubarb, delicious with a nutty crumble simply sprinkled over the top.

As always when cooking with wine, the better the quality; the better the final product. Obviously that also means it’s more drinkable and while I’m a repeat offender of the drinking while cooking, remember the less you drink; the better the final product.

Today I’m giving you a slow braise of duck with pinot noir. I make mine with an Otago drop in honour of all things glorious about that region. To keep it summery, serve it with a spinach salad, with fava beans, lardons and pearl onions tossed through. In winter, heap it on top of a great olive oil mash and sticky shallots reduced in a little of the braising juices. You will note the recipe uses 2 cups of wine for the duck which means and an extra 1 for the cook. Cook it & Love it.

Serves 6

6 duck legs
duck fat
2 onions
1 dessertspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
juice and zest of an orange
2 cups of pinot noir
2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper

In a sauté pan, brown duck in duck fat until golden. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Sauté onions in fat and remove with slotted spoon and spoon over duck. Combine remaining ingredients in a jug and pour over. Season with salt and pepper, cover and place in 180°C oven and slowly braise until tender for 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Carefully remove the duck from the sauce with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish. Skim fat from sauce and thicken the sauce with beurre manié and pour over duck and serve.