I possibly do need an intervention, but I don’t care. I was horrifying a few people with images from my new and growing stack of vintage jelly booklets.
I’m still not quite sure why they were horrified. To my eyes, these are amazing.
Jelly to delight and horrify!
Then, I do have a soft spot for kitsch! Rest assured, I wasn’t really intending to make these as directed. But Mum was telling me about some of my grandmother’s salads back from the 50s and 60s. She used aspic and would create wonderful layers of ham, tomato, beetroot and peas. Mum remembered them with great fondness… and the hours my grandmother took to make the jellies. At the end, she’d sigh: “all those hours, and you lot gobble them up in minutes.” Poor grandma.
My grandmother was a great cook. I did once wrinkle my nose at her baked bean pizza experiment, but as I grew up, I understood what she was about. She really was into kitchen experiments! Generally, they turned out amazing. I have so many happy memories of hanging out in her kitchen with my aunts running about carrying plates and bowls of food to the table. They’d try to run me out, too, but I remained staunch, holding onto my stool at the kitchen bench! Turns out, I was right to stay.
So, as everyone cried “No!!!!!!!!,” my gander rose. (Is that a real phrase?) I knew grandma wasn’t silly and if she was able to make this work, so could I. I did a little searching online and in my books and cobbled together a tomato jelly recipe. The key, I think, is not to let the jelly aspect overwhelm the ingredients. Balance, basically. And that’s at the heart of all good cooking.
My tomato jelly
I didn’t fill my mould, but I just wanted to get the top impression, which works for this little patê-esque concoction. Truly, it’s fantastic! Full, rich tomato flavour. I served it with beetroot crackers, which added a lovely, earthy flavour that complements it nicely. The little circles of cucumber roll out to surprise you, too! Basically, this works and tastes rather like a regular spread, only in an amazing jelly form. I just know it’d be fantastic with fresh ham, but I have to go to the store for that. Basically, it’s Sunday and I don’t want to venture out.
The lowdown is quite simple. Fill a smallish bowl with fresh tomatoes. Chop them up just a bit – quarter large tomatoes, half the small ones. Throw in a bunch of basil and a bunch of tarragon. Add some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Cover and marinate overnight.
In the morning, blend the mixture with about 1/4-1/2 cup of your chosen stock and add to a saucepan to gently heat (don’t boil). While you’re doing that, soften about three leaves of gelatin (this will vary depending on your mixture and the size of your mould – this is for about 2-3 cups of mixture) and add to the saucepan, stirring until dissolved.
Place in your mould (always good to lightly spray it with oil – I use coconut, which has been a dream), along with thin slices of mini-cucumbers (quarks) and refridgerate until set.
Enjoy! Just don’t tell people it’s jelly. For some reason, many can’t get around the idea of vegetables and jelly (although, tomato is a fruit… so, technically, this is still fruit jelly!).