For me, this is one of the great tastes of my life. I always wanted to find a way to make the juices from my mother's tomato salad into the star ingredient.
Extracting the essence is so simple - you MUST try it at home! It can also become the base for several recipes; it can be served chilled, or as a frozen granite, sorbet, or as a fragrant jelly. But make sure you start with a good tomato; an unripe or poor variety will give you a poor quality of essence. I find the best variety is Ksay, imported from France, but you can also use Nyagon, Golden Plum, Black Cherry, Santini or Piccolo.
Ingredients for the essence
cherry tomatoes, at room temperature ripe and washed
celery, washed and finely chopped (beware: celery is very strong and could unbalance the essence)
shallot, peeled and finely chopped
fennel, finely chopped
garlic, peeled, finely sliced
thyme leaves, chopped
basil, leaves, chopped
1 leaf only
Cut all the cherry tomatoes in half. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients and leave to macerate at room temperature for 2 hours, covered with cling film, for the flavours to infuse. Now we want to break down the tomato pulp, but not to a purée. A domestic food processor can only process 600-800g at a time so do this stage in three batches.
Using the pulse button, blitz the tomato mixture 3 times for 2 seconds each. Over-blitzing the tomatoes to a purée will create a completely different, coarser flavour and cloudy red juice, which you do not want. We are looking for the pale gold colour – the heart of the tomato.
Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and leave to macerate again for 3 hours at room temperature. The maceration is hugely important for the best exchange of flavours.
Spread a double muslin cloth over a medium (approx 25cm) bowl and pour in the chopped macerated tomatoes. Tie up the cloth to form a bag and hang above the bowl to collect the golden, clear essence. This should take 2-3 hours. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Reserve the essence in the fridge.
"The first thing my mum taught me was to never waste any food, and this is also the first thing I teach my chefs at Belmond Le Manoir. Even the pulp of the tomatoes can be used in other ways, such as in soups, sauces, casseroles etc."
This recipe is adapted from the book Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: The Story of a Modern Classic
A personal tour of Raymond's legendary restaurant-hotel through the four seasons, including 120 recipes from his celebrated kitchens. With spectacular photography of the signature dishes, luxurious rooms and ravishing gardens, and beautiful and witty illustrations throughout, the fairy tale of Belmond Le Manoir is brought charmingly to life.