LENT rightly feels like a time for plainer food and simpler cooking. It is, after all, intended to be a season of fasting before we erupt into the joyful feasting of Eastertide.
A recent visit to the Spanish coast north of Barcelona reminded me how delicious tuna can be. For these Tuna-stuffed Tomatoes, use strongly flavoured onions, such as red or shallots, and get the best tuna you can. It makes for a good starter, or a simple supper with crusty bread and a green salad.
300g (10 oz) quality tuna, drained
150g (5 oz) onions or shallots, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.7kg (4 lb) large tomatoes
handful of chopped parsley
sea salt and ground pepper
Mix the onions, tuna, vinegar, and oil. Keep the stalks on the tomatoes and cut through horizontally across and underneath the top to make a lid. Lay them aside for the moment, then with a grapefruit spoon remove the seeds and core from the inside of the tomato. Keep the lid.
Add the chopped parsley and seasoning to the tuna. Mix well, then pack inside each tomato, drizzle over a little more oil and salt, then place the lid on top. These will keep for several hours in the fridge before serving. The filling is enough for up to 16 average-sized tomatoes of about 6cm (2½ in.) diameter.
Cardamom is safe enough to allow experimenting with flavours. This Cardamom-and-coffee crème brûlée is abstemious enough not to violate the strictures of Lent, and demands some gentle, penitential time at the stovetop. Adding a little cornflour helps to prevent the risk that the mixture splits. You can keep the egg whites for meringues.
600ml full-fat milk
5 cardamom pods, bruised
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
145g demerara sugar
1 shot espresso coffee
1 tablespoon Camp coffee (or 1 teaspoon coffee flavouring)
In a saucepan, bring the milk to the boil with the cardamom, then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes or so. Beat the egg yolks with the cornflour in a bowl or jug, strain the milk mixture over and mix lightly. Clean the saucepan, return it to the hob, pour in the eggs and milk, and very slowly stir on a low heat until everything thickens. You will get almost to the consistency of double cream. Stir in the vanilla, then pour into six ramekins or four larger bowls.
To make the caramel top, slowly bring the sugar to the boil with the coffee shot. It will bubble and darken, then add the Camp coffee or flavouring and pour over the top of each crème. Chill for a good six hours or overnight until the dark disc on top is a hard shell.