Why I Learned to Concasser Tomatoes

I did not know how to concasser tomatoes.


I can slice them. Dice them. Even strip them of impossibly thin skins.

But concasser?

I am referenced to an earlier page in my 500 Recipes for Vegetables and Salads (which is very old fashioned for its inclusion of a Carrot Ring Mould circa 1972, and supremely optimistic given that here in the Outpost I possibly encounter just 5, which includes, obviously, for I must learn to concasser them, tomatoes).

And so – as directed – I turn to page 63 which describes concasséed (and the accent persuades me I am dealing with something eminently grander than usual Outpost fare) tomatoes as skinned, quartered and de-seeded.

And I consider – as I begin to gather my ingredients together – whether the regular focus on something new to cook, to eat, will concentrate whatever loneliness I might feel, reduce it and boil it away to nothingness? Elizabeth Gilbert sought herself in her book, Eat, Pray, Love. Italy. Indonesia. India. The places she visited, all beginning with the letter I, and so she pondered, appropriate given that she was on a voyage of self discovery. I.

But I’m not. I don’t need to find myself. (I have always dismissed the notion as mildly self indulgent – well, it’d have to be, wouldn’t it?). But I need to discover some old facet of me and polish it to a new and enduring brightness.

Why not cooking? Can a failed domestic goddess emerge as an aspirant one?

In an effort to avoid insanity born of loneliness and a fractured identity and the flailing lack of direction that comes with the losing of direction and maps, why not food?

Mashed potato with butter and salt. Soul Food.

Words. Food for the Soul. Always.

Can I – then – not expect the marriage of the two to be a happy one?

The effort will prove challenging on two fronts.

I am not naturally an aspirant Domestic Goddess (despite eternal admiration of those who are) and the Outpost does not lend itself easily to domestic divinity.

You can’t get mascarpone cream here.

Or feta.

So I shall need to improvise.

To muddle along.

Which I have grown good at. I muddle a lot in the Outpost.

But I don’t need to muddle the tomatoes for I know, now, how to concasser.


Carrot, Tomato and Date Salad.

A handful of carrots, a couple of tomatoes and a few fat dates – I am not one to follow recipes closely, I have a greedy family: if a chocolate cake recipe suggests it’ll feed 8, it won’t, not in my house, so I manipulate measurements as much as I am forced to ingredients.

And a good slug of olive oil, a similar amount of vinegar, a pinch of salt, some black pepper generously ground and a few sprigs of basil (which grows – in my case – in the hollowed out bowl of a discarded canoe which I salvaged from the shores of the dam and which is valiantly battling the drought).

Grate the carrots, concasser the tomatoes, separate and save the seeds, chop the dates. Bung all that into a bowl. Then tip the seeds, the oil and vinegar, the salt and pepper and some shredded basil (never chop it, always shred it with your fingers, though I do not know why) into a small saucepan and stick all that on a low flame and bring to a slow simmer.

The kitchen will be filled with the delicate scent of basil and your eyes with well as they are stung by the piquancy of the vinegar. When it’s reduced a little, tip it through a sieve to get rid of the flotsam and jetsam and then pour the resultant dressing, which should be honeyed pink, onto your salad so that it can marinade in the warmth and the sharpness of the vinegar be slowly mellowed by the sweetness of dates.

Pop it in the fridge until supper time when it’ll be prettily glazed with the chill and striking for the psychedelic combination of never-wear-together red and orange of tomatoes and carrots, and bedecked with ebony shards of date.

We ate it with fillet steak and big floury boiled in their jacket potatoes. Hat and husband were very kind, which means they will get it again which mightn’t have been what they meant.

And I made a dent in my longlonelyoutpost day and felt a mild sense of something like achievement, a small, warm glow of happy satisfaction.

Shirley Conran, who wrote Superwoman in 1975 claimed ‘life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’.

But then she didnt’ live in the Outpost where stuffing a mushroom or for that matter, concassering a tomato might be all that stands between you and the madness wrought of isolation and redudancy.

I wonder if I can find one here …



13 Responses to “Why I Learned to Concasser Tomatoes”

  1. Potty Mummy Says:

    It looks delicious. I won’t get Boy #1 to eat it, of course (that goes without saying, really), but the rest of the family will definitely enjoy. And I’ll look out for tinned feta and if it exists, send you some (although I do wonder whether it would actually be worth eating… ).

  2. R.Sherman Says:

    I’m ashamed I had to look up “concasser.” Then I said, “Oh, chop.” I’m such a peasant.

    Your salad looks good, though.


  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks Potty. Hat ate under duress, it has to be said, carefully and delicately extracting the concassed tomatoes hoping i would not notice …

    Mr Sherman – as was I. A peasant. Until i, like you, took onboard meaning of concasswer which makes us, of course, very refined now.

  4. Iota Says:

    By weird blogging synchronicity, only this week-end I looked at a recipe for tomato soup (since I’d got a glut of tomatoes because… oh boring story). It said I had to peel and de-seed the tomatoes. I couldn’t think how to do that without it taking a ridiculous amount of time, so I ditched the recipe. I chop 3 tomatoes up small, season them, and microwave them with grated cheese, and eat them with toast.

    So much for concasseeing.

    I don’t know how possible this is in Outpost, but you should really really watch the film Julie and Julia. I just know you’d love it. Julia turned to cooking as a trailing spouse and childless, and it filled her life.

  5. Mwa Says:

    I could just about taste the remoteness. I remember feeling like that when I lived in Dundee for a year. I took up Scrabble (for one). Nice meal, though.

  6. gaelikaa Says:

    There’s always something new to learn in cooking.

  7. Jo Says:

    Fantastic post.
    I feel like I could possibly concasser some tomatoes of my own.
    To add my review, I really enjoyed both Eat, Pray, Love and Julie/Julia. In fact, I enjoy most things to do with food, unfortunately I’m a better baker then a cook.

  8. Mr Farty Says:

    I can just about taste that concoction from here. If it tastes half as good as it looks, you’ve done your family proud.

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you iota – i like the tomato and cheese concotion. perhaps I’ll have that for lunch. perhaps the whole family will have that for lunch. i read the julie/julia reviews. must get my hands on a dvd. trailing I am. thank God for the children who, poor things, will be subjected to my experiments. Last night it was sweet and sour salad …

    Thank you Mwa. more remote tastes loom i fear.

    very true gaelikaa. i am trying to find some lemons for chutney at present …

    Thank you Jo. I enjoyd E,P,L: julia roberts currently engaged in making that one. I liked Italy the best, probably for all the food …

    Ah thanks Mr Farty. I’m not sure Hat would agree though, even if Husband did eat it with relish (but probably only because he knows better not to …)

  10. Paradiselostintranslation Says:

    I just love cooking. I find it very therapeutic & creative & it does do my soul good,and I’m sustaining & nurturing life with it too. Well at least I haven’t killed anyone yet. That I know of..

    Cooking & blogging: pillars of ‘My Life Abroad’

  11. carol Says:

    well – you know I wouldn’t eat it!!! But have Lizzie with me and she saw the photo and said how yummy it looked. I better take her home for lunch!

  12. Cheryl (Lizzy Frizzfrock) Says:

    Very pretty salad… and who would have thought that “concassering” a tomato could turn into a delightful blog post? Surely blogging helps with the loneliness and boredom of isolation. Isn’t it great that we have this escape? Reya at The Gold Puppy wrote today about how we need to “get out of the box”, to look around at our surroundings, to let go of books & computers for a glimpse at the out-of-doors. That is all well & good, but I think you need the box (computer) & book (cookbook) to help you along the way. I enjoyed your post very much! Happy cooking!

  13. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    yup, Paradise. think i know what you mean … trying to reach some kind of remote nirvana via same media … food and words x

    Yes, you’d have done what Hat did: rudely picked the red bits out!

    Lizzy Frizz (love the blog name btw!) thanks for dropping by and for your comment: you’re quite right – i need box and book or will be marched off to bedlam. You’ve got some lovely pix on your site.

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