Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Egyptian tomato salad

Serves 8

My Cairo trip last week is still lingering and there are just a couple more food ideas to share from those few precious days there. Although it sounds a lot of bother blanching and peeling the tomatoes, all in fact it involves is leaving the tomatoes for a few seconds in a bowlful of just-boiled water, after which their skins will come off without any trouble. It is worth doing this: the tomatoes will be more seductively tender and the nubbly dressing then permeates them better. If a shallot is beyond you, use the white parts of two or three spring onions.

1 shallot, peeled
5 medium-sized vine tomatoes (approx 750g)
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3-4 tblsp olive oil
good squeeze of lemon juice
Malden salt salt and pepper
handful freshly chopped chervil

Chop the shallot and garlic as finely as is humanly possible – or just blitz to a pulp in a processor – and put in a small bowl with the oil, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, and leave to steep while you blanch the tomatoes: that’s to say, put them in a large bowl then pour boiling water over them so that they are hotly submerged. Leave for 5 minutes then tip into a colander and run under cold water.

Using a sharp knife, peel off the skins (which is now easy), then cut these fuzzy spheres into slices, as thick or as thin as you like.

Arrange the tomatoes in a dish and pour over the dressing, using your fingers to mix well. I find it easier to use one bowl for steeping purposes and another one, later for serving. You can let the tomatoes sit like this for a good couple of hours. Yes some liquid will collect, but the flavours will deepen wonderfully.

When you’re ready to eat, either leave the dressed tomatoes in the bowl or decant to a new one, but either way, using your hands, turn them to coat, squeeze over some lemon juice, and sprinkle with Malden salt and a tablespoon or so of freshly chopped chervil. Use another herb if you like, but there is one inflexible rule governing this salad: it must be served at room temperature. Leave it in the fridge until the last minute and all will be lost.

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