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      RECIPE TITLE "TOMATO CONSOMMÉ" from Is There a Nutmeg in the House? : Essays on Practical Cooking with More than 150 Recipes Copyright © The Estate of Elizabeth David, 2000

    This is simple, cheap and delicate.

    Ingredients are a small parsnip, cut into 4 pieces, 2 carrots, sliced, a clove of garlic, 2 sticks of celery, a generous sprig of fresh tarragon or approximately a teaspoon of good, dried tarragon leaves, a few saffron threads, one 400 g (14 oz) can of Italian or Spanish peeled tomatoes or 750 g (1-1/2 lb) of very ripe and juicy, fresh Mediterranean tomatoes, 900 ml (1-1/2 pints) of water, 600 ml (1 pint) of chicken stock, seasonings of salt and sugar. For clarifying the consommé, 3 egg whites. For the final flavourings, 1 teaspoon of Madeira.


    Put all the ingredients except the chicken stock, egg whites and Madeira into a capacious saucepan. If you are using fresh tomatoes -- but don't bother unless it is the height of the season and you have really sweet and wonderfully ripe ones -- chop them roughly, skins and all. Season only very moderately, say one teaspoon each of salt and sugar to start with. You can always add more later. Add the water. Simmer in the open pan for about 40 minutes. Line a colander with a dampened doubled muslin cloth and strain the broth. Don't press the vegetables, just let the thin liquid run through.

    Return the broth to the rinsed pan. Add the chicken stock. Bring to simmering point. Beat the egg whites for a couple of minutes. As soon as they start to froth pour them into the simmering broth. Cover the pan. Simmer very gently, until the whites have solidified and formed a crust and are thoroughly cooked. By this time, all the particles and impurities in the broth will have risen to the top and will be adhering to the crust. Leave to cool a little. Filter through a piece of dampened muslin placed in a colander, over a deep soup tureen or bowl. The consommé should be as clear as glass and a beautiful amber colour.

    When you heat the consommé for serving -- and not before -- add the teaspoon of Madeira, and a little more seasoning if necessary. Serve in big cups. There should be enough for 5 helpings.


    1. An unorthodox, but uncommonly successful way of clarifying the consommé is to transfer the saucepan, covered, to a low oven as soon as you have added the egg whites. You can leave it for an hour or more. The first time I saw someone doing this -- it was a Moroccan cook with whom I worked briefly in Marrakesh -- I was aghast. And when I saw how well the system worked, amazed. It has to be remembered that unless your egg whites are cooked into a solid crust, your consommé will never be truly clear and clean. The oven method is a good way of achieving this aim without over-reduction of the consommé and attendant loss of its delicate flavours.
    2. Alternatives to chicken stock are beef, veal or pork stock. Or, for a fish broth, a concentrated fish fumet. A non-alternative, I'll repeat that, a non-alternative is a bouillon cube. Water is a preferable one.
    3. Please don't be tempted to double the prescribed dose of Madeira. (You won't taste anything but the wine.) If you have no Madeira, use white vermouth, or manzanilla or any decent sherry.
    4. To serve with the consommé it is a good idea to have some little croutons or slices of good bread, sprinkled with olive oil, spread with grated Gruyère or Parmesan and baked in the oven.

    --Unpublished, pre-1975.

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