Bruschetta just seems like a twat’s way of saying ‘something on a hard piece of bread’, doesn’t it?
Well… twat I am.
Admittedly, this is just a poncey version of Tomatoes On Toast but the crux of this recipe does not lie in the ingredients, but in the method. There is a slight magic there that I urge you to try.
I’m aware that the vast majority of my recipes these days are beginning with ‘When I was Florence…’ but my time there really has shaped the way I cook and approach ingredients that it is natural for it now to leak into my standard practice. And now hopefully yours.
But as I said, when I was in Florence (eye roll) I turned to my mentor before we had even begun cooking and told her that I was hungry.
She burst into action. She told me it was a teaching moment, but secretly I think she knew I was far away from my mum and the thought of me being hungry in her presence was not acceptable.
Antonella took the opportunity to show me the difference in flavour when ingredients are introduced to cold oil and hot oil during the cooking process.
She had two pans on the go. One had cold oil in it, and one which had hot oil in it. She began putting the exact same ingredients for a tomato sauce into each pan. The cold oil took all ingredients in one go and cooked at the same time. The hot oil took the ingredients in different stages.
As this happened, she pressed two pieces of sourdough into a griddle with her bare hand and charred it to a smoky black slab. She plated up.
She put the two versions in two different bowls. She handed me a spoon, a piece of bread, a smile and she said ‘Now try’.
The difference was insane. My immediate favourite was the cold oil. It has something to do with all of the ingredients releasing their flavours at the same time, giving each one the same equal time to infuse the recipe, as opposed to it’s hot oil alternative which gives different stages/times for ingredients to cook. While this is a great (and usual!) way of cooking, it also means whatever went into the pan first may have it’s flavour swept out by the time the final ingredient goes in.
So now I introduce it to you.
This was the first thing I cooked for my mother on my return from Florence as I was so excited to show it off.
Yes skinning a tomato may seem like a faff just for some bruschetta but I promise you it’s worth it. Also remember that tomatoes retain a lot of heat so when these come off the hob, they will be absolutely boiling so do let them cool a little.
I learnt this the hard way.
Pour some water from a recently boiled kettle into a pan and keep it bubbling. Put a bowl of ice water near the hob.
With the tip of a knife, score a little X into the top of three tomatoes and then lower them into the pan. Keep them bubbling for 4 minutes.
Carefully take the tomatoes out of the water and plunge them into the big bowl of ice water and let them cool until they’re cold enough to handle.
Once you can handle them, peel the skins off with your hands. Blanching them in the boiling water will make this an absolute breeze.
Halve each tomato, scoop out and discard the seeds and then finely chop up the tomatoes.
In a saucepan, pour in a good dribble of olive oil. Now add the tomatoes along with some salt, pepper and two finely minced garlic cloves.
Put the saucepan on a medium to low heat and bring everything to a bubble.
Give everything a stir and keep it sizzling until the tomatoes are warmed through and start releasing juices into the pan. Once everything amalgamates together, take off the heat and allow to cool. Don’t make the same mistake I did and eat straight away and take layers of skin from your tongue.
Meanwhile, toast some bread. When it pops – don’t butter it, slather it in some strong extra virgin olive oil.
Spoon the tomatoes on top, sprinkle with a little more salt and some chopped up basil and serve.