I’m back home, in Brighton, after spending two lovely months in Lebanon. I am always so torn between where home lies for me. I feel I belong here and there and I love each place for entirely different reasons. When I’m here I want to be there and when I’m there I want to be here. Now, if I could just get it right…
One of the very wonderful aspects of Lebanon that I cherish so much is the natural bounty that abounds. Lebanon is a very blessed country in that respect. And, as a family we are very blessed to have our own little piece of that bounty, growing and supplying us with all the wonderful tastes of the rich summer season. When I’m in Lebanon I truly know where my food comes from and the very hands that tended it with care and love. Working with produce that is local or homegrown and that has been endearingly cooked from scratch, conjures one of the best feelings in the world.
Our farmlands in the village have been passed down for generations. My grandfather, whilst a very accomplished Lawyer working in Beirut, never left his land bare and every summer he was back to nurture it. My father learned to do the same, even built a farm during the civil war and now he passes his knowledge on to my brother. And so these very tomatoes were skillfully grown by my brother. We don’t call him tomato boy for no reason.
Every week for the last three weeks big carts of freshly plucked, sun-kissed, plump tomatoes have made their way into our kitchen. There really is something romantic about a homegrown tomato and I do love it in the simplest of forms; for example try tomato slices sprinkled with a little salt, sumac and a drizzle of olive oil. And then when you need to hang on to them for a little longer well they can be beautifully cherished in a bottle.
For this month’s Blog of the Month, I have chosen Jul’s Kitchen written by the sweet and bubbly Jul’s herself from her Tuscan kitchen. I was lucky enough to have had the pleasure of meeting her in person and she’s as wonderful as she seems on the blog. Head on over there, where you’ll find beautiful photography, luscious recipes and pleasant stories. I know you’ll enjoy it.
- 5 kg of Tomatoes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves (more or less to taste), smashed
- about 1-2 chili peppers, seeds removed & finely chopped
- about 8 rosemary stalks
- ⅓ cup of high quality balsamic or red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
- salt & pepper to taste
- 40ml or 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 250ml of water or about 1 cup
- About 3 (500g) canning jars
- Prep the tomatoes like you would for a tomato concasse- procedure here
- Add the olive oil to a deep, heavy bottomed pot and when hot add the onions, cover and sweat for a few minutes till soft and translucent. Stir often.
- Add the smashed garlic, chopped chili, coriander and rosemary and saute all together for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the balsamic or red wine vinegar and reduce for about 4-5 minutes, or until thick.
- Add the chopped tomatoes that have been prepped according to the instructions linked to above, and also add the sugar and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add about 1 cup of water and cover bring to a boil on medium heat then lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 1 hour or until it reaches a ketchup consistency.
- When desired consistency is reached, remove off heat and set aside to cool for a bit about 15 minutes or so it’s not too hot. Remove the rosemary stalks and then run through a food processor until very smooth.
- Drizzle the ketchup through a sterilized funnel into sterilized bottles/jars, then seal tightly and store in the refrigerator until needed – it should keep for 3 months or more.
- Adjust seasonings as you wish- You can get creative with the spices and herbs you want to include.