Whilst living in the US last year, I watched an excessive amount of television. To be precise, my TV set was stuck on Bravo TV and Food Network for a large part of the day. Inspiration from the Barefoot Contessa, Iron Chefs, Top Chefs and Martha was flowing in my culinary cerebral cortex, as I jotted down recipes and ideas. Bravo must have had me in mind when launching Chef Academy, as it began just as I settled down in Nashville. I couldn’t get enough of Chef Jean Christophe “Hottie” Novelli and his crazy class of amateur cooks, who, for reality television, weren’t all that irritating. Chef “Hottie” Novelli’s “Grandma Louise’s Tomato Sauce” recipe was a particular favourite and I kept it mind for my return to Israel, the home of the finest, most full-flavoured and sweetest tomatoes.
As following on from my last post, you will appreciate the fact I am a big sauce lover, maker and eater, especially of the tomato kind. So once back in Israel, I gave Chef Hottie Novelli’s Grandma Louise’s Tomato Sauce a go. This recipe involved interesting methods for a tomato sauce, including roasting the tomatoes in a dry pan, a method that brings a deep, intense and slightly caramelised flavour to the sauce, and then combining garlic and oil at the end as an infusion. The unusual flavour-combination of star anise and vanilla in a tomato sauce drove my taste bud curiosity to an all-time high.
Even though on TV the recipe seemed simple, after having attempted it, I realised I need a few more practices to conquer the recipe. This definitely was created with the ‘chef’ in mind, rather than the home cook, given the attention, timing and practice required for a successful outcome. I would also make a few amendments to the recipe, including removing the tomato skins and tough inner parts, which seem to be common in israeli tomatoes.
This sauce is a great addition to pasta, otherwise, you can use it as a rich condiment for meat and fish.
Recipe taken from Bravotv.com
6 lb (2.7 kg) Beef or Heirloom tomatoes
4 Star anise1 Vanilla pod
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to season
2 Sprig fresh thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
28gm bunch fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
• If you have added too much sugar to start this can be balanced out with a touch of vinegar.
• Always taste the tomatoes uncooked to determine their natural sweetness before you add the sugar.
• The amount of garlic to infuse with greatly depends on its strength; again make your own judgment.
• Additional seasoning such as cumin, fennel seeds, chilli etc. can be added this is of course personal taste again.
Wash the tomatoes and halve roughly.
Place into the hot pan and season with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar.
Add the anise and vanilla.
Allow the tomatoes to start to cook then press them gently with a masher to help them to release their juice.
Reduce the heat down to just simmering and continue for about 1 -2 hours until a thickened paste. This slow evaporation of the moisture from the tomatoes will produce a deep colour concentrated flavour without any bitterness.
Crack the garlic and add along with the basil which is just halved and throw in.
Combine with the warm paste and finish with a good amount of olive oil to finish the infusion. Allow to cool before storing ready for use.
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