Sunday, 19 October 2008

Luscious confit of baby tomatoes, basil and garlic

I know confit is a poncy, cheffy word to use for this wonderful dish of baby tomatoes, basil and garlic gently stewed in lashings of olive oil and butter, but I can't think of a better one: it's not really sauce, and it's not a preserve.

The shops here in South Africa are filled with luscious baby tomatoes, the most delicious and tasty of which are tiny red jewels the size and shape of calamata olives. The label calls them 'Spanish Sante' tomatoes and I've also seen them labelled 'Santine'. If you can't find them, use Rosa baby tomatoes.

The secret to a deep basil taste is to allow the tomatoes to steep for a while after the initial cooking. Excellent on bruschetta, over pasta, or with bacon and eggs. Not for dieters.

Luscious confit of baby tomatoes, basil and garlic

1/2 cup [125 ml] olive oil
2 fat cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 punnets [about three cups] tiny ripe cherry tomatoes, halved if they are bigger than grapes
4 T [60 ml] butter
a large handful of fresh basil, shredded
salt and freshly milled black pepper
a pinch of dried red chilli flakes [optional]

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or frying pan and add half the garlic. Cook for a minute or two over a gentle heat, but do not allow the garlic to brown. Now add the tomatoes and stew gently for about eight minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to soften and split. Gently crush any unbroken tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Add the butter and half the fresh basil and stir until the butter has just melted. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for half an hour. Now stir in the remaining garlic, and gently reheat the mixture for two or three minutes. When a rich, buttery sauce coats the half-solid tomatoes, add the remaining fresh basil, and the chili flakes, if you're using them. Stir well. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little water [or more butter, if you're throwing caution to the winds].

Serve hot or just warm.
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