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Egyptian tomato salad

Tomatoes are glorious. There, I said it. Whether fried green ones or cherry ones sliced on buttered toast, in soup or salad, tucked in a burger or the main event – I love them.

I’m always on the lookout for new tomato recipes, and I’ve crossed paths with this one more than once recently so I took it as a sign from the universe. (That and I had a big bowl of ruby red tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table).

This is a great dish to have up your sleeve for summery lunches with friends, especially as you can prepare it the night before and just liberally sprinkle it with herbs before serving in the manner of the totally cool, collected host that you are deep down inside… deep, deep down, if you’re anything like me. (Just be sure to let it come to room temperature before you eat – it will taste much better for it).

I actually made this sitting at my kitchen table on a Sunday night while I was absentmindedly watching Netflix. Deep in the throes of Sunday blues, I didn’t want to admit the weekend was over and go to bed, so I whacked some TV on in the background and blanched some tomatoes and got on with this!

The next morning, I took the tomatoes out of the fridge, sprinkled them with herbs, and served them with an egg white omelette and a strong, black coffee; it was Monday, after all.

Egyptian Tomato Salad
Inspired by Colette Rossant, “Apricots on the Nile”:

Tomatoes (around 5 or so should do it)
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chervil (or other herb combo – read below)

Makes 4-6 small servings; 2-3 generous helpings; 1 greedy serving.

Score little x’s in the bottom of the tomatoes. Pop them in a large bowl and pour over boiling water until they’re completely submerged and leave them for a few minutes (no more than 5 because you’ll basically be cooking them – I tend to wait for the minute the skin starts to visibly peel away, around 3 minutes).

Meanwhile, finely dice the shallot and garlic clove and place them in a little bowl with a healthy glug of olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt. This is your “dressing”.

When the tomatoes look ready, pour away the hot water and then, one by one, peel their skins off. (Sounds grizzly, but is immensely satisfying.)

Slice the warm fuzzy tomatoes thinly or thickly, depending on your preference. Personally, I prefer pretty thick slices for this – especially if I’m making it in advance because thin slices are more likely to disintegrate and create a sauce, rather than a dish, over time.

Place them in a dish, pour over the dressing, cover and leave for around an hour. This gives the flavours time to deepen and blend. It will be lovely to eat from this point on, but if you’re going to use it the next day, just pop it in the fridge and forget about it.

All that’s left is – when ready to serve – to finely slice chervil to sprinkle on top. And voila!

Now: a word on chervil. If you have it, then go for it! Trust Colette. But it’s not the easiest herb to find. When I made this, it was a Sunday night and, as committed as I am to delicious food, I was not about to go out in my PJs in search of it. So I used a mixture of parsley and tarragon to roughly mimic the fresh, yet slightly aniseedy taste of chervil. It works like a charm. Plus, it played in to my current obsession with tarragon, so that didn’t hurt either.

A great addition to picnic lunches, Monday morning breakfasts with egg white omelettes, or served simply on buttered toast as a snack – you really can’t go wrong, trust me. And it’s healthy, to boot! For an Italian twist on this Egyptian salad (cheeky, I know) and a great option if you want to make it a bit more substantial; some roughly torn mozzarella or shavings of parmesan wouldn’t go amiss.

Happy eating!

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