Every now and then I think up a dish I’m quite proud of in the originality department, why they’re usually starters, I don’t know, but this here is definitely one such dish. I wanted the dish to look like a dessert at first glance, with the tomato ice cream passing for strawberry, the cracker for a tuile, the cherry tomatoes for macerated cherries and the balsamic glaze a caramel. I don’t know how successful it was in this respect, but it did certainly look quite good and tasted great. There was a sweet/salty theme running throughout the plate, the roasted sweet tomatoes with the honey like glaze providing a great counter to the creamy gelato and the slightly hot cracker. The recipe is after the jump.
For the ice cream (makes just under 1L)
Enough fresh tomatoes to make 1 1/2 cup of tomato juice in a blender
2 cup of cooking cream
1 cup of full cream milk
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 large smashed garlic clove
1 tbsp of sugar
Salt to taste
Blend the fresh tomatoes with the skin and seeds in a blender until completely liquefied, and sieve (with a very fine sieve) into a small pan. You will probably need a spoon to help push the liquid through, and will probably need to do it in batches. Once all the juice is in the pan, add the basil leaves, garlic clove, sugar and salt and bring to a boil, allowing to reduce by about a third. Once reduced, bring the heat down to a simmer and whisk in the cream and the milk and leave to simmer for another 15min or so. This allows the flavour of the basil and garlic to really steep into the liquid. Take off the heat and set aside to cool down to room temperature (check seasoning once cooled). Once cooled, pop into your ice cream maker and churn/freeze as per manufacturer’ recommendations. Since the fat content in this ice cream is quite high, serve at a slightly higher temperature, just to make sure its rich and creamy.
For the cracker (makes about 30 crackers)
Adapted from this recipe
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
60g of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
60g of freshly grated mature cheddar cheese
2-3 tbps of water
1 tbsp of freshly chopped thyme
1 tsp of chili flakes or powder (to taste)
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
4 big tbps of butter cut into cubes
Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until crumbly, add two tablespoons of water and pulse until the mixture becomes a dough that come together, if the mixture is still dry, add the remaining tbsp of water. Roll the dough into a 4cm log, wrap in cling film and freeze for about 20-30min or stick in the fridge for about an hour. Remove from the fridge/freezer and cut into 1/2cm thick discs and place the discs with at least 1cm spacing onto a baking tray. Cook the discs for about 10min until pale brown, then turn over and cook again for another 3-5min until the edges just about start to brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.
For the Balsamic glaze
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of brown sugar
Place all the ingredients in a small pan and on a medium low heat heat until a glaze consistency is reached, about 20min. Make sure the plates you serve it on are pre-warmed, otherwise the glaze will instantly turn into a sticky toffee.
For the tomatoes:
Dip the desired number of cherry tomatoes into some honey, and place on a baking tray into the preheated oven for about 15min until they start to color and shrivel up but are still juicy. Serve immediately but top with freshly ground sea-salt and a hint of extra virgin olive oil.
Assemble the dish as you wish, topping the tomatoes with freshly chiffonaded basil leaves and keeping the ice cream in a ramekin or a similar vessel so that it won’t melt in the warmed plate.