I never would have imagined myself in this position: injecting alcohol into roasted fruit with a syringe.
The pharmacist who sold me the needles looked me up and down like I was a drug addict. After minutes of explaining what I was up to (including the fact that I seriously only needed 2 syringes rather than the 50-pack she recommended), I think she understood that I was genuinely going to use the needles for foodly purposes.
So how did I reach this position? I decided that I could improve on my recent Bloody Mary shots by making the tomato the very vehicle for the alcohol. By imbibing the tomato with vodka and splattering it with a Worcestershire/TABASCO reduction, I would create a roasted Bloody Mary in a bite. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!
It was a brilliant plan. All I had to do was carry it off — but the virgin tomatoes were so pristine that I almost didn’t have the heart to undertake my foodly experiment. Almost.
Recipe #72: Bloody Mary-nated tomatoes. Aka “vodkarised tomatoes”. Makes 4 serves (two tomatoes per serve).
This recipe takes at least four hours to make (includes ~1hr chilling time at the end), depending on how long the tomatoes take to cool, so I recommend preparing all the components the day before you intend to serve.
You will need — special equipment:
► a 1mL syringe, which you can source from your local pharmacy
► a tiny (milk) whisk, for combining the sauce after it is chilled
– for the tomatoes:
► 8 smallish vine-ripened tomatoes [3-4 times bigger than cherry tomatoes]
► olive oil
► sea salt
► less than 20mL vodka
– for the sauce:
► 1 tbsp olive oil
► 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
► ¼ cup liquid chicken stock
► 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
► ~20 drops TABASCO sauce
► 1 wedge of lemon
– to serve:
► the tiny, pale green stems and shoots from the very centre of a bunch of celery, chopped finely
Start by roasting the tomatoes. To do this, follow exactly the same method as for cherry tomatoes, only you don’t want these to be quite so dehydrated.
Preheat your oven to 140°C. Cover a baking tray with foil and oil it lightly. Position the tomatoes on the baking tray, leaving the leaves and stem intact if possible. Drizzle over a little olive oil, sprinkle some salt, grind a little pepper. Place the tray in the oven for at least an hour. Allow to cool completely in a container, or on a plate with raised edges, before injecting the vodka.
When injecting the fruit, set aside at least ½-hour as you will need to move slowly for each step: if you don’t pull the vodka very carefully into the syringe, all you will get is air. Likewise, when injecting the vodka into the tomatoes,
- choose a point near the top of the tomato,
- push the needle well under the flesh of the tomato, being careful not to exit the skin, and
- inject slowly until you see it start to leak out, then
- remove the needle and insert it into another site on the tomato and
- repeat the process until the full 1mL vodka has been injected.
I repeated this for each tomato then started with the first tomato again. I could only get 2mL vodka into each of my tomatoes, which was fortuitously a perfectly refreshing amount.
You can make the sauce while the tomatoes are cooling. Pour the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chicken stock and Worcestershire & TABASCO sauces into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently once the mixture begins to bubble, and turn off the heat when the bubbles start to become larger and syrupy — which is ~10-15 minutes after it starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and squeeze in the juice from the wedge of lemon. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate to chill for at least an hour.
Don’t worry if the oil looks very separate from your sauce > once the sauce has chilled, you will be able to recombine it by whisking it for about a minute with your tiny whisk. This will produce a dark, tarry concoction that tastes amazing.
Serve the tomatoes very chilled, with a generous dollop of sauce and a scattering of the celery. There is a freshness to the aftertaste of this Bloody-Mary-in-a-tomato that lends itself perfectly to the role of palate cleanser between courses.
If you are like me and find the tomatoes too big to eat in a single bite, I recommend sucking the liquid in as you bite to minimise the drippage. When you have finished savouring the main event, you may want to smear your finger across the serving plate to lap up the rest of the sauce and celery. So moreish and umami-ful.
Before I unveil the next recipe, I have to share with you a recent rediscovery: donut peaches. I first ate these when I lived in Broome [hello to my friends in sticky Broome!] and hadn’t noticed them in Perth until this season. Apparently donut peaches represent an heirloom variety that is undergoing a revival. Good for them! They look cute, pack better in lunchboxes than their rounder cousins, and their pale-coloured flesh tastes delicious.
The inspiration to alcoholise peaches and apricots came from my idea about the Bloody Mary-nated tomatoes: I really wondered why I should stop with tomatoes, so I didn’t.
Recipe #73: Sweetened mascarpone with drunken stone fruit. Serves at least 4, depending on serving size.
You will need – special equipment:
► a 1mL syringe, which you can source from your local pharmacy
– for the fruit:
► 4 ripe donut peaches
► 4 ripe apricots
► caster sugar for sprinkling [you could use any type of granulated sugar, really, but caster sugar dissolves/melts faster]
► less than 30mL scotch whiskey [I used Glen Livet; you could use brandy, dark rum]
– for the sweetened mascarpone: [aside, you can use this recipe in place of the non-cook cheesecake filling in Recipe #7]
► 1 tub mascarpone
► 2-3 tbsp pure icing sugar
► 2 wedges of lime
– to serve:
► leftover shortcrust pastry or Granita biscuits, smashed into small pieces [because I had it on hand, I actually used an almond shortcrust pastry case, made from the pastry I had leftover from yesterday’s lemon tarts. Recipe to follow shortly]
Start by roasting the fruit. Preheat your oven to 140°C. Position the whole fruit on a lightly greased foil-covered tray and sprinkle generously with the caster sugar, then give a modest dusting of nutmeg (= a few good grates). Place the tray in the oven for around 45 minutes, until the sugar has caramelised and the fruit has started to colour.
Check the fruit after 25 minutes to ensure the sugar is melting & carmelising > if it’s not, take the tray from the oven, carefully place the fruit pieces in a bowl and toss them gently with a little more sugar and a few drops of water, then sit them back on the tray and in the oven to finish roasting.
Allow the fruit to cool completely in a container, or on a plate with raised edges, before injecting the alcohol > to do this, follow the steps outlined for the tomatoes, above. You may be able to fit 3mL of alcohol into each piece of fruit. Chill the fruit well before serving.
To make the sweetened mascarpone, whisk together the mascarpone and 2tbsp icing sugar in a small mixing bowl. Squeeze in the lime and mix it in well. Taste the mixture; add more icing sugar (and whisk!) if it needs it, otherwise chill the cream until you are ready to serve it.
To serve, pile up some of the smashed pastry/biscuit crumbs and layer fruit and mascarpone on top — unless you happen to have canape cases on hand. Swirl over the syrupy alcohol that didn’t want to stay in the fruit and you will have a mildly alcoholic and very awesome dessert.
- Stone fruits hold their liquor much better than tomatoes. Tomatoes leak alcohol almost as soon as you begin injecting.
- In spite of their mushiness, the apricots managed to fit in the alcohol most comfortably.
I hope these recipes inspire you to run some foodly experiments of your own!