Posted by: dave | December 16, 2014

Recipe: Tomato consomme

This recipe is a bit of a molecular gastronomy number — it was apparently developed by a professor at the Bremen University of Applied Sciences and first demonstrated at a culinary conference in 2004. So, a warning. You’re going to need the following highly specialised bits of kit: Muslin. Icecube trays. Gelatin.

It’s so easy to make I’m embarassed I took so long to try it out.

1. Chop up and liquidize half a dozen tomatoes. Strain out the juice through the finest sieve you have.
2. Divide the juice in half. Heat one half on the stove till it starts to boil. Add powdered gelatin to the other half for one minute to start activating it; you want about 7 grams of gelatin for each cup of tomato juice.
3. Once the hot tomato juice is just boiling, take it off and stir the two together till the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour it all into ice-cube trays and freeze it.
4. Once it’s frozen, put the frozen tomato jelly in muslin, in a sieve or colander set over a bowl. I sat a flat-bottomed colander on top of an upturned cup to keep the jelly well above the consomme, which worked fine. Stick it in the fridge for two or three days.
5. After a few days of thawing, you’ll notice a perfectly clear, almost colourless liquid gathering in the bowl. That’s your consomme! Purists would I think let it all drip out, but once the ice was fully thawed I ended up squeezing my muslin a bit as if I was separating cheese curds from whey, which sped the process up a bit.

That’s pretty simple, right? But you may still be wondering why anyone would go to the effort. The answer is in the flavour: it’s like an essence of raw tomato, and quite unlike anything you could imagine appearing in such crystalline form.

This isn’t just surprise-your-senses gimmickry, either: somehow, the intensity of the flavour is heightened because there is nothing but flavour to focus on: none of the texture and physicality of eating a raw tomato, and none of the fats and flavourless elements that dull the taste of the real thing. It’s like a culinary essential oil.

The great thing about this technique is it’s pretty foolproof, you don’t need to cook it, and you can do it with practically anything you can get through a sieve: carrots; cheese sauce; baked potato, according to the link at the top.

There is a recipe for tomato consomme in the grand Larousse tradition, which involves a mirepoix base and simmering for 20 minutes while a floating “raft” of egg whites does its work clarifying the soup. I haven’t tried it, and I’m sure it’s yummy. But I love being able to extract these essences from food without cooking them, because that process changes the flavour so much; some bit of tomato-ness is lost in translation.

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Responses

  1. I am definitely going to try this – particularly if I have a big crop of tomatoes this year. Maybe made with chilli and adding some vodka?

    By the way, I used to do the old fashioned consommé (now rather unfashionable) and it did seem a miracle when all the ‘bits’ got ‘stuck’ in an increasingly grubby looking cloud of whipped egg whites. And then this crystal clear liquid appeared. If it was made with a gelatinous piece of beef or veal bones you would get a beautiful cold jellied soup. Or add more gelatine and you have the classic aspic!


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