Half Scottish, Half Japanese. Tempura Mars bar?

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I began writing this blog in October 2010 as a new father documenting food in his family. Before I knew it, I was in the final of MasterChef 2012. Now cooking is no longer just a hobby.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Clear gazpacho

Jemma and I took Hector on his first trip abroad to Mallorca, to attend the wedding of Laura and Ralph, in the picturesque town of Deia. It was a busy half time flight and Hector behaved well. Sadly, although we were lucky enough to stay in the Nock family's beautiful Finca in the neighbouring village of Fornalutz, it was the worst night's sleep either of us have had since Hector was born. He struggled to cope with the heat and was up through the night, too uncomfortable to sleep.

We perked up in the morning with freshly squeezed local oranges, black coffee and ensaimadas - a Mallorcan breakfast pastry. A few hours later, we were enjoying fresh lemonade (large, local lemons with thick, fragrant and unwaxed skins), gazpacho and Spanish cured meats. Jemma isn't a big fan of chilled soups, but has come round to gazpacho, with the rich umami of ripe tomatoes, the sweetness of red peppers, refreshing cucumbers and the spiciness of raw garlic.

Coincidentally, the night before we departed for Mallorca, we hosted a dinner party, at which we served a type of clear gazpacho. It came from a Raymond Blanc recipe for tomato essence, which he uses to make a colourless tomato risotto. I wasn't sure what I was going to make with it, but I'd also seen it served with pickled cucumbers and sea trout tartare at Medlar restaurant. I loved the tomato taste without the coarse texture of the tomato pulp and decided to serve it on its own as a chilled, clear tomato soup.

The secret to getting just the clear tomato juice is to let it hang in a muslin - I made the mistake of squeezing the pulp through the bag. This yielded more liquor, but also the cloudiness and colour of the tomatoes. I was able to salvage it by letting the heavier red pulp sink and skim off the colourless liquid with a turkey baster. I kept the red liquid, added some more tabasco and heated it with a couple of leaves of gelatine to make a tomato jelly. I cut this into cubes and served it in the soup, along with diced, de-seeded cucumber, shredded basil leaves, chive oil and purple chive flowers.

Ingredients - serves 4
1 kg cherry tomatoes
1 stick celery, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 sprig thyme leaves
5 basil leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 drops tabasco or large pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Halve or quarter the tomatoes straight into a food processor or smoothie jug.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse three times, for 2 seconds.
3. Leave the ingredients to infuse in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours.
4. Place the tomato mix in a sieve lined with muslin or cheese cloth.
5. Leave over a pan for several hours to collect the tomato water. Do not squeeze!
6. The water collected should be clear.
7. If you squeeze rthe muslin bag, you can use the red juice to make a tomato jelly.
8. Simmer the pulp with some water and sieve it to make a passata by removing the skins and seeds.
9. You can also turn the passata into a tomato soup by adding red lentils and chicken stock.