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Tomato consommé

I never thought I’d include this kind of recipe in one of my books, as it’s more of a posh restaurant kind of dish. However, it’s so simple to make and incredibly fresh and delicious, I didn’t want to let personal style get in the way of a cracking recipe. I’ve based this soup on the same flavours as a Bloody Mary, as a real celebration of tomatoes. Serve this as a starter on a hot summer’s day and it’ll be like having a slap round the face – it really gets your tastebuds going!

PS. You can only make this soup if you have a couple of layers of clean fine muslin (or a clean tea-towel) and a butcher’s hook – you can get them from a good butcher’s or cook shop.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks reserved
  • 2kg really nice, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 x 5cm piece of fresh horseradish, peeled and roughly chopped, or 2–3 teaspoons grated horseradish from a jar (but not creamed horseradish!)
  • ½ a clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1–2 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar
  • a couple of shots of vodka
  • 1 slice of beetroot (for colour)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First of all, pick out the tiny inner basil leaves and put them in a bowl in the fridge. Then put all the tomatoes, basil leaves and stalks, horseradish, garlic, vinegar, vodka, beetroot and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor or blender (you may have to do this in batches) and whiz until you have a kind of slush. It’ll smell great! Give it a stir, have a taste and season with salt. As horseradish varies in strength, you may need to add a little more – I would say it’s better to slightly over-horseradish it – and whiz again.
  2. Line a big mixing bowl with a double layer of muslin and pour the tomato pulp into it. Gather up the corners of the muslin and carefully, but securely, knot them together so you can lift the bundle up by the knot. Hang from a butcher’s hook over a clean bowl to collect the juice that drips through the muslin and place in the fridge or a cool pantry. The liquid will be the most incredible crystal-clear rose-coloured essence.
  3. Taste a spoonful and adjust the seasoning with sea salt only – don’t use pepper now or you’ll get little black bits in your lovely clear juice. Stir, season, taste until you feel you’ve got perfection – be confident, as now is not a time for blandness! One of the background tastes should be a subtle acidity from your red wine vinegar – add a little more if you like, but not too much. You could also swig in a little extra vodka at this point.
  4. It will take about 5 to 7 hours for the juice to drip through. (If you think this sounds like a long time, you can gently push the muslin to force the juice out over the course of a minute, then let it drip for an hour or so from there. The longer you can let it drip naturally though, the clearer the consommé will be.) You’ll know when it’s done because you’ll have 4 to 6 large ladles of juice in your bowl and the muslin pouch will be reasonably empty – discard what’s left in it. Chill the juice in the fridge, along with your serving bowls.
  5. When you’re ready to serve, divide the soup between the bowls and sprinkle with the reserved basil leaves and a few small drips of quality extra virgin olive oil. Absolutely incredible!