Cordon Bleu Cookery Course, 1970
I've always had a thing about late summer. It's fun to try and pin-point the exact time summer changes into autumn. Often, it's around September 10th or so; marked by a whiff of bonfire smoke, a sudden chill in the air, or the blustery gales of the September equinox. Mind you, here in London, it feels like autumn started in June, and I'm writing this looking out onto a grey, damp and slightly foggy street.
It's also the last chance saloon for summer food, or at least, food with summery pretensions. Here's my recipe for a delicious Tomato Ice. If you think that it reeks of 1970's dinner party food, you would be utterly correct, as I've based it on a recipe from No. 69 of the Cordon Blue Cookery Course, published by Purnell as a part-work in 1970; but with the addition of grated horseradish which I think would work well with it, and the hot flavour of horseradish can be an excellent combination with the intense, sweet taste of the tomato. It's a pretty dish, and I like the colour of the tomato ice. Canadian, apparently.
You tip two tins of plum tomatoes into a pan, and then add two teaspoons of salt, a generous pinch of white pepper, four tablespoons of golden caster sugar, the zest and juice of two lemons, and a generous helping of freshly grated horseradish, and stir until the mixture comes to the boiling point, pushing the tomato pulp against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon to help it break down. Add three sprigs of fresh mint, cover the pan and allow to simmer for five to ten minutes. Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve, making sure that you extract all the juices. Add a few drops of Tabasco to taste. You should now be looking at a bowl full of a lovely red-coloured, very thin juice.
Chill this mixture in a deep freeze, and mash it up with a fork just before it starts to set. Return to the deep freeze, and repeat the process, and again, until you have formed a smooth ice in the sorbet manner. You could, of course, acheive the same effect in an ice-cream machine.
To serve, cut an avocado in half (I like the hass variety with the knobbly green skin; slightly nutty in taste), rub the exposed flesh with lemon juice (to stop it turning brown) and fill the cavity with a generous scoop of the Tomato Ice. To make the avocado stand upright on the plate, turn over the half, and slice off a thin wedge, so that it makes a base.
The important thing to remember is to flavour the tomato ice reasonably well, as the freezing process can often kill off the stronger tastes. Some out there might garnish it with mint, but I'm currently bored of garnishes, and think simplicity is often the best way forward. I like the idea of updating these classic, unfashionable recipes to more modern tastes; simplifying them if necessary, and presenting them cleanly, discarding those outrageous garnishes of yesteryear. That, at least, is the goal.
By the way, a tip: when you're grating a fresh horseradish root, make sure you grate it across the grain (rather than downwards). We keep a horseradish root in the deep freeze, and find that it keeps for ages; providing us with "fresh" horseradish whenever the mood takes us.