Romesco is a rich spanish sauce using charred peppers and tomatoes. Today we are going to use coal baked peppers to supercharge that rich smoky flavour, giving us really nice complex layers in the sauce. Traditionally served with fish, quite frankly it’s perfect with anything that comes off the grill – this season we’re pairing it with lightly charred heritage tomatoes and the best of British Asparagus, topped with fermented garlic honey pumpkin seeds.
For the Romesco:
2 red peppers
3 cloves of garlic
50g flaked almonds
25g tomato puree
2 tbsp fennel fronds
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp sweet paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
40-60 ml rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
For the Salad:
800g heritage tomatoes, mixed sizes and colours
Salt and pepper
8 sprigs of thyme
One bunch of spring onions
Small punnet of pea shoots
For the Fermented Garlic Honey Seeds:
Handful pumpkin seeds
1 jar raw honey
20 cloves of garlic
To make the Romesco:
Rake out a good bed of coals.
Remove any stickers from the pepper and give them a little wash. Dry them well and place directly into the coals.
Keep the peppers turning as they cook so they char all over. You want the peppers to become completely black all over.
Once completely charred place into a bowl and cover with a tea towel to steam. As the peppers steam the flesh will shrink away from the skin making it easier to peel.
Once cool enough to handle the charred skin from the peppers along with their seeds and the stalk. Chop finely.
Toast the flaked almonds in the skillet over a medium low heat until golden and just starting to catch on the edges.
Remove from the pan and place in a small bowl to cool. Place the toasted almonds into a large pestle and mortar ( If you’re in the house you can cheat and use a stick blender or food processor for the next step, just pulse everything together until well combined adding your rapeseed oil last).
Grind the almonds to a medium fine powder, add the peppers and gently bruise and bash until they have broken down.
Use a fine micro plane to grate in the garlic and stir through.
Add the tomato puree, sherry vinegar, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Give everything a really good mix up in the pestle and mortar until you have a fine sauce.
Slowly add the rapeseed oil until you have a nice sauce consistency, you may not need it all.
Finely chop the fennel fronds and stir through.
To make the fermented garlic honey:
Make sure that you are using scrupulously clean equipment and well cleaned jars you don’t need to sterilise them, just make sure everything is cleaned beforehand.
Peel the garlic cloves and place into the jar, top up the jar with the honey leaving an inch gap at the top of the jar.
Close the lid tightly and place upside down, turn every half an hour or so for two hours.
Place the right way up and leave to ferment for at least a week but up to a month before eating. Burp the jar every day to release the build up of gas. Check the PH of your fermented garlic honey with Ph strips*.
Store jar in the fridge for up to a year. (You can use the garlic cloves for other recipes!)
To make the fermented garlic honey seeds, toast your pumpkin seeds in a saucepan on a dry heat, once toasted, add a few tsps fermented garlic honey to the pan until coated. Leave to cool / harden, then roughly chop.
For the tomatoes:
Place a perforated grill tray over a bed of hot embers and allow it to get nice and hot.
Place the tomatoes into the tray along with the sprigs of thyme, the thyme will smoke and perfume the tomatoes. Keep an eye on the tomatoes as they cook, turning every now and then to get a nice colour on them. Don’t overcook them otherwise they will become mushy.
Remove the tomatoes from the grill tray and set aside to cool slightly.
Whilst the tomatoes cool, drizzle the spring onions and asparagus with rapeseed oil and char until dark and caramelised all over (if your asparagus are large, you may want to blanch them first).
Remove from the grill and place on a tray with the tomatoes.
Cut any large tomatoes into wedges and halve the slightly smaller ones.
Split the spring onions in half and season everything well with salt and pepper.
Place a good few spoons of Romesco onto the base of your platter and spread out.
Scatter over half of your pea shoots and arrange the tomatoes and spring onions on top finishing with some more pea shoots.
Give everything a good drizzle of rapeseed oil and season again. Scatter over the toasted pumpkin seeds.
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When making the fermented garlic honey: Botulism will not grow in an acidic environment. Keep the PH of the fermented garlic honey below 4.6, measured with Ph strips.
If it goes above add a splash of raw cider vinegar to bring the acidity back down.
Botulism is very rare in the uk but precautions should be taken and good food hygiene followed.
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