As a student I had the privilege to work at very very fine hotel in Bantry Bay, in Cape Town. On my first day at work, a chef's meeting was called. We all sat around a conference table, facing the head chef. This was serious business. I expected a 'to do' about off days and tardiness but no. Peeling tomatoes was the first topic on the agenda. Their would be serious repercussions if anyone was seen being lazy about blanching tomatoes. To this day I cannot bring myself to cool them under running water or throw them all in at the same time. Getting drilled about perfect concasse was a valuable lesson, the taught and shiny flesh is worth it.
Serves 4. Increase quantities for more
- 1 large beef tomato
- 6 fresh quail's eggs
- 8 pieces best parma ham
- about 100g thin asparagus spears, ends trimmed off
- olive oil
- some baby leaf salad (I got mine from Turnips)
- a drizzle of truffle oil (get from Tartufaia truffles at Borough market or even at Waitrose)
- maldon salt and black pepper
- Get a large pan of water on to a rolling boil. Get a bowl of iced water ready too. Using a sharp knife, make a criss- cross in the skin of the tomato at the base and top. Plunge into the boiling water, one at a time, (or 2 at a stretch) and watch the clock. 10 seconds only! Less if they are very ripe. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the ice water. Leave for a minute or so and then drain. Peel carefully. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Cut into small cubes. Beautiful concasse!
- Place the quails' eggs in warm water in a saucepan and bring up to boil. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove. Cool under tap and peel.Set aside.
- Preheat the oven grill to very hot. Lay the parma slices on a rack on a tray and grill until crisp. Turn once. I recommended standing in front of the oven and guarding it like you are a palace guard on probation.
- Just before serving, get a grill pan heat up and drizzle some olive over it. Pop the spears on and leave until they have a few lines on, swoosh around the pan and remove. Keep warm (they don't have to be piping hot)
- To serve, arrange the spears in the centre and stand 2 pieces each of crisp ham above. Cut the eggs in half and dot 3 halves around. Fill in the gaps with concasse and dot with baby salad that has been rubbed with some olive oil (we never serve naked leaves). Season with salt and pepper, paying special attention to the egg halves, and drizzle the truffle oil over just before sending.