February in Sydney can be particularly brutal. The relentless heat and humidity is energy zapping and can leave you feeling listless and out of sorts. We had a respite for a few days with some welcome rain, but not for long. When it’s searingly hot I tend to consume most of my calories in liquid form. I’m not interested in spending too much time in the kitchen. I still want to eat something delicious but veer towards recipes with maximum impact for minimal effort. With a big box of beautifully ripe tomatoes sitting on my kitchen, this gorgeous tomato consommé found its way to my 5-2 fast day menu.
In peak summer tomatoes are at their very best. Deeply coloured and bursting with flavour they really don’t need any fussy preparation. Perfectly ripe they are ideally suited to the making of a cold soup. I often make gazpacho at this time of year, one of my favourite meal solution to beat the heat and humidity, but very recently an intensely flavoured, clear as a bell tomato consomme hit my radar. Incredibly light and refreshing it was served as a starter to a summer evening meal and blew me away.
Achieving clarity and depth of flavour in a consommé is widely regarded to be potentially difficult and notoriously time-consuming to master. There is a lot of technique involved unless you do as I did for this tomato version and use a few clever shortcuts.
On reflection the sub title of this post could easily be A Cheat’s Guide To A Crystal Clear Consommé.What I love most about this cheat is that there is no actual cooking involved. Hands on preparation involves just a little chopping of the ingredients and a quick blitz in the food processor to form a slushy pulp which is transferred into a muslin lined strainer and left to work its magic one drip at a time in the refrigerator over six to eight hours or overnight.
For very little effort I was rewarded with an intensely tomato flavoured consommé with hints of cucumber, capsicum and chilli. Adding a few drops of Tabasco provided an additional kick. Refreshingly delicious on a hot summers day for a mere 106 calories. As you can see from the photo it was as clear as a bell. So clear that if you look very closely you can see the reflection of my hessian potted herb garden in the soup. An unplanned but cleverly appropriate coincidence. Proof that I have managed to get through the summer without killing off off my herbs and that this technique really works. I served my gloriously simple consomme with a side of grilled prawns, asparagus and cherry tomatoes for an additional 126 calories. Needless to say I was more than happy with this fast day meal.
Clear Tomato Consommé
Serves 4 ( 106 calories per 3/4 cup serve)
8 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped (280 calories)
1 small Lebanese cucumber, roughly chopped (45 calories)
1 red capsicum, de-seeded and roughly chopped (32 calories)
1 small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (45 calories)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped (8 calories)
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and roughly chopped (12 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
a few drops Tabasco sauce (1 calorie)
IN THE BOWL of a large food processor blitz the tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, onion garlic until smooth and slushy. Season with sea salt and pepper and a little Tabasco sauce.
PLACE a large sieve over a non reactive glass or ceramic bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough to comfortably hold the sieve without the sieve touching the bottom. Line the sieve with muslin cloth.
POUR the tomato mixture into the cloth lined sieve. Gather up the corners of the cloth and tie up to secure.
SET ASIDE the bowl, sieve and cloth wrapped tomato mixture to drain in the fridge for six to eight hours or overnight.
POUR the tomato consommé into a clean jug or bowl, discarding the muslin cloth and pulp. Serve warm or chilled.
Grilled Prawns, Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4 (126 calories serve)
As a general guide, 500g of green prawns in the shell equals about 12 medium to large prawns, and yields about 250g of peeled prawn meat. Every 100g of green peeled prawn meat carries an energy count of 105 calories.
500g (about 12) medium or large green prawns, in the shell (263 calories)
1 bunch asparagus spears (50 calories)
1 punnet cherry tomatoes (54 calories)
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided (120 calories)
1 clove garlic, finely grated (4 calories)
juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon (12 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
PEEL and de-vein prawns, leaving tails intact. Set aside in a glass or ceramic bowl.
WHISK together half a tablespoon olive oil with garlic, lemon juice and zest in a jug. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the prawns, cover and leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
MEANWHILE place the asparagus spears and cherry tomatoes into a shallow bowl. Toss with the remaining half tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with sea salt and pepper.
PLACE a griddle pan on medium high heat. When smoking hot add asparagus spears and tomatoes. Grill until lightly charred. Set aside.
REMOVE the prawns from the marinade and sear until pink with nice char marks, about 3-5 minutes per side.
DIVIDE prawns, asparagus and tomatoes evenly amongst four plates and serve alongside a bowl of clear tomato consommé.