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.
RECIPE METHODPut 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
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.