Fennel Roasted Tomatoes – twisted No. 3

‘Cos of my ongoing oven issues, I had to fudge how I made this, this time – but the recipe below is how I normally make it. Tomatoes love fennel seeds, and the feeling is mutual. There’s an abundance of wild fennel growing quite near my house, in Mile End Park, so I collect the seeds for a year’s supply at the end of summer.

Ingredients

Tomatoes

Fennel seeds

Garlic, finely minced

Coarsely ground salt

Coarsely  ground black pepper

Few drops of oil

Method

Turn your tomatoes upside down and cut in quarters, but not all the way through – so they open up like four petal’d flowers. Deseed. Smear a baking tray with a few drops of oil. Lay your tomatoes quite closely, but not overlapping on the tray, skin side down, flesh side up. Sprinkle with salt, seeds, garlic and black pepper. Splatter with oil, but only a few drops.

Place on a shelf at the bottom of your oven and bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the temperature you’re using for whatever else you’re cooking) – low and slow is best. You are aiming for about 50% dehydration, so they come out a bit like ‘sun blush’ tomatoes from the deli counter.

While you might want to wait until you’ve got the oven on for something else, it’s well worth making a whole trayful – they are really good in sandwiches, on a roast vegetable platter, or with anything grilled or barbequed. Fennel seeds feature in both Indian and Chinese cuisines, so they are also great with curry, dhall, or a black bean and ginger dish.

Mr Benz’s Blindingly Good Beans – Twisted No.2

I think I might have mentioned before that I don’t particularly like British baked beans; (apart from my soup), but these Jamaican style beans I will eat voluntarily.

Ingredients

For every can of the cheapest beans going – should be about 23p each

1 small onion

1-2 tomatoes

1-2 cloves of garlic

Thyme, pref fresh, but dried if you live long distance far

Scotch bonnet chilli, a few slices – you could use other chillies, but scotch bonnet has an amazing extra special flavour.

1 teaspoon oil

Salt+ coarse ground pepper optional

Method

Fry onion over medium heat in oil. When onion begins to soften, add garlic and chilli, chopped –then after a minute or so, add the tomatoes and thyme. When fragrant and tomatoes softened but not too soft!..add the can of beans and cook out for 4-5 minutes. Done

Tuppence ha’penny Tomato soup

I want to create a new name for this month – I’m torn between Jucember and Juvember… 😉

This recipe is cheap but cheery, to make you feel summery even though you’re still wearing a cardigan.tuppenceha'pennytom

The best value, and best flavoured tomatoes on the market at the moment are little thin skinned cherry toms – there were about 100 in the bowl I bought for £1, and very toothsome they are too. The recipe below can be made even cheaper/more cheaply by leaving out the fresh tomatoes and just using (a little more) puree, but then you might want to add a pinch of dried oregano or mixed herbs – still tasty with a chunk of bread and a salad for a quick lunch, and better than a packet.

I made mine in the rice cooker, because I was running out of gas, but it should be cooked over a medium heat.

Ingredients – makes 2 large bowls or 3 small ones

2 tablespoons oil, preferably olive
2 heaped tablespoons tomato puree
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
20 cherry tomatoes, washed or 3-4 normal tomatoes, deseeded and chopped.
1 level tablespoon plain flour
600ml water
½ teaspoon sugar, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Method

Mix the flour in a little water in a glass, then top up with the rest of the water, so it’s ready.
Over a medium heat, fry the puree in the oil for a couple of minutes, stirring until the oil turns red and the puree darkens. Add the garlic, stir until fragrant, then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the skin begins to split on one or two tomatoes. Add the water and flour mix, bring to a boil, then simmer until the mixture thickens slightly and the flour taste has cooked out. Remove tomatoes and roughly mash/chop with scissors.(At this point, you could pass them through a sieve, but I like some texture) – and return them to the soup. If you want to blitz your tomatoes in a machine, do so with just a ladleful of the soup…you do get a deeper colour if you do it by hand.
Add salt, taste and adjust with sugar, if needed.

Nothing special, but quick, cheap and cheerful – fish version

Over the years, I have been fed or I’ve cooked many, many variations of this – with sardines, with pilchards, with the little smoked African dried prawns and black eye beans or any of the vegan versions in the last post – and the recipe is always basically the same as in the last post…and they all definitely improve a can of fish.
However, there was an West African bloke who lived in the hostel that I stayed in for 3 months while I was waiting to get re-housed, who told Mr Benz about one particular brand of canned smoked herring, and we both agree it is ‘de bes’ ever…it even comes in enough tomato and vegetable sauce of its own to warrant leaving out making a separate tomato sauce.

Ingredients serves 2 takes 10-15 minutes
1 can petri brand smoked herring in tomato sauce – not the one in tomato cream £1.20 in Lidl – I have no idea if any other companies make the same thing –
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3-4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Scotch Bonnet/Habanero to your level of chilli heat
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method
Gently fry the onion in the oil until soft and translucent, add garlic and chilli, fry for 1 minute, then add tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Add fish and sauce, and swill the can out with water, adding the water to the pan. Gently break up the fish, bring up to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Serve with carbohydrate of choice – potatoes or soft polenta or semolina are my favorites.

really red tomato sauce

There seems to be 101 recipes for tomato sauce – I’m not talking Heinz/condiment, I’m talking cooked, plain or otherwise, to serve over pasta, polenta, potatoes, whatever…so, personally, I totally reject the idea of adding carrots, celery etc – the holy ‘soffrito’ or ‘mirepoix’ trinity of some european cooking….this, below, is either tomato, tomato and onion or possibly tomato, onion and red bell pepper (spanish sofrito) sauce- I add garlic to everything I can, but you, dear reader, may do as you please 😉
The secret of keeping your sauce really red is to fry the tomato puree/paste before you add tomatoes, tinned or fresh, or any water…you might like to think of this as ‘fixing’ the colour, like using a mordant when you’re dying things with natural based dyes.

for a chunky base you may wish to start with onions – if so, for 4 ppl, chop 2 onions quite finely and lightly fry in 2 tablespoonsworth of oil until they turn translucent..then add garlic and fry for 1 minute further…
for a finer base, start with the garlic, minced, gently cooked for 1 minute until fragrant but not yet golden..I recommend 2 cloves per person serving, but do as you will 😉
Then add an equal amount (to the oil you have used) of tomato puree. Stir until the oil becomes orangey red and the puree becomes a shade darker…then you can add your can/carton(s) of chopped tomatoes, or chopped fresh tomatoes – preferably de-seeded (and, if you’re using them, finely sliced or pre cooked red peppers). Cook for a further few minutes, quite a few minutes if the peppers were raw, n.b. it is better to add raw peppers along with or even before the garlic, at any rate before the tomatoes if you’re using canned/carton toms- wait until the (raw) tomatoes give up some juice and/or the peppers soften – then taste – you might need to add salt, and/or a teaspoon or so of sugar. At this point, you can stop, and in a separate pan and a little oil, start to add other ingredients…herbs, chilli, fennel seed, even polpette or bolognese ingredients, then add in your really red tomato sauce and water, little by little, if you want a thinner, less rich sauce.
Re: bolognese sauce..I have been to Genoa, and it’s true that their pesto alla genovese is amazing and the very best I’ve ever had in a commercial premises – but I’ve never been to Bologna – is their meat sauce really that good? All I know is they have a bad arse reputation for some of Italy’s most brilliant and outspoken feminist thinkers…so, shout out to the Bologna massive anyway.
Above all, don’t overcook your version of this sauce – frying of the puree only impedes, rather than stops it going that dreaded washed out orange :-0 goodness, I sound like such a snob.

Baked Bean Soup

I don’t actually like british baked beans very much – they’re too sweet and bland – unless they get a serious make over. My ex’s blindingly good Jamaican style baked beans for a fry up (a recipe for another day) and this soup are the two recipes I use a lot…and you can use the cheapest beans going.

Ingredients makes two bowls (800 ml-1 l), 15-20 minutes

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 slices of fresh red chilli – optional
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or a quarter of a can, if you don’t have fresh)
1 can cheapest baked beans going
1-1 1/2 cans water
Salt to taste
2 sprigs sweet marjoram (other herbs are available 😉 )

To serve – dribble of olive oil (optional/only if you’ve got some)

Method

In a pan big enough for the finished soup, soften the onion over a low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes, add garlic, and chilli if you’re using it, cook for a further minute, then the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and begin to release their juices. Add beans, bring up to heat, add a canful/ canful and a half of water. Add majoram leaves. Bring up to heat again and simmer for 5 minutes and then blitz. Taste for salt.

If you haven’t got a machine to blitz with, mash the bean mix before you add the water, then pass through a sieve with the back of a wooden spoon at the end…
I particularly like sweet marjoram and I’ve got some in my garden – fresh thyme, rosemary, basil or oregano would also work or dried oregano, herbes de Provence…you get the idea!
If you serve this to guests, I suggest you call it haricot bean soup – somehow makes it sound more grown up.

This was lunch last Wednesday week.

Butterbean salad for supper-last tuesday week!

Ok, got some catching up to do…I am going to get on top of this and get disciplined…so

I used some wild garlic (Ransom) leaves – roughly torn by hand and then gently wilted in olive oil for 30 seconds and marjoram in mine.
This is a really good main course salad for when salad greens are expensive and imported. It’s also about 50% out of the store cupboard, and depending on what you add to it, can be made to travel well for work/picnics – nothing worse than slimy lettuce leaves that have got a bit warm, eh?
The way you assemble it may seem weird, but it ensures that the beans soak up flavour from the vinegar, without making the bread go pappy and soggy.

Ingredients – serves 2 as a main course, 15mins
Core ingredients –
1 can butterbeans
1 small red onion, finely sliced
8-10 cherry tomatoes left whole, or 2 tomatoes, cubed, if you’re going to eat it straight away.
Handful (about 5-6 per person) black olives, the shiny, slightly wrinkly kind.
1-2 slices stale bread, toasted
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
Mean pinch of salt to taste – you won’t need as much as you think, because of the olives.
Herb of choice

Optional ingredients if you’re eating it straight away
10 cm length of cucumber, cubed or 1 small Lebanese cucumber, cubed
Handful of baby spinach leaves
Basil
Rocket

Optional ingredients if you’re making it for later
Lightly cooked green beans, cut into 2cm lengths
Roasted red pepper, torn into shreds
Sweet marjoram, thyme or rosemary

Method
Lightly toast bread, and leave it in the toaster or under the turned off grill.
Rinse butter beans, and add to a bowl with the onion and a healthy twist of coarse black pepper – mix by hand and gently squeeze – you want the beans to keep their shape, but some of their skins to slightly break so the flavours get in. Add vinegar and mix again.

Re-toast bread (you want it to be completely dry without it burning) and rub the garlic clove over both sides, then tear into smallish chunks or cut into cubes. In a separate bowl, combine oil and bread. If you’ve only got white sliced, and you’re making this salad for later, it is worth gently frying your toasted cubes in the oil like croutons.

Add tomatoes, olives, salt, herb of choice and anything else you’re using to the beans and mix. If you’re eating it straight away, you can mix in the bread as well, if not, lay it on top of the salad and mix when you come to eat it….it doesn’t matter if some of the oil gets into the salad – in fact that’s a good thing, but you don’t want the bread to sit in the vinegar too long before you chow down.