chicken with beetroot and slow roast tomato sauce

as i stood barefoot in the kitchen at half past ten at night slicing tomatoes and wondering if i should use the turkish pepper or just the normal chilli flakes, i had one of those rare moments when you see yourself as others see you. a kind of a sub specie aeternitatis job. and i thought the whole cooking thing had just gone too far.

at half ten at night, i am normally tucked up in bed reading a book. okay, sometimes it's a cookery book but most of the time i just read fiction. (cookery books are too big to read in bed). so what on earth possessed me to slow roast tomatoes while i am asleep, and on a school night too??

well...i bought some beetroot at the farmers' market and i knew it needed using. so, while watching telly that night, i was leafing through some cookery books, as you do, and i spotted this recipe for a slow-roast tomato and beetroot sauce to go with roast birds.

suddenly, the idea of chucking some tomatoes in the oven at 60 or so degrees C overnight seemed like such an obvious thing to do. it's easy - it only took me a few minutes to prepare, and you end up with leftover tomatoes for lunchboxes. there is also something nice about your oven humming and glowing warmly in the dark while you're asleep - but maybe that's just me. is a bit crazy.

the craziest bit was making the sauce the following day. beetroot is an absurd vegetable, a freak of nature - nothing not artificial should be THAT red. the food processor looked like a nasty accident in an abattoir or like i'd whizzed up a smallish mammal in it.

the end result was worth it - a sweet, earthy sauce with just a hint of an acid kick from the tomatoes and the yoghurt, and then the crispy and salty chicken skin. it's definitely something to do again, especially as i am always looking for ways of using beetroot.

for two

4-5 slow roast tomato halves
2 medium beetroots
1-2 tbs of creme fraiche

first, you have to slow roast the tomatoes. just halve them, put them in a roasting dish cut side up, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and drizzle of olive oil (plus chilli flakes if you like) and roast in a very low oven for a good few hours. when i say low i mean less than 100C and when i say a few hours, i mean four or five at least. mine were done at about 60C overnight. oh, and start with good tomatoes, otherwise it's all a bit pointless. and make quite a few - no point in doing one or two.

take 2 medium beetroots and boil them in their skins for about an hour or until you can stick a knife in them and they're soft. when cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, chop roughly and put in a food processor with 4-5 tomato halves, a tablespoon or so of creme fraiche (i used thick yoghurt - but no low fat stuff please), and quite a lot of salt and pepper. whizz until smooth. reheat in a pan and serve with the chicken.


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