The Last Days of Summer and a Couronne de Tomate.

Oh but these endless days of an endless summer… Stretching like a till paper roll into infinity, all that white space to be filled with the most daring adventures, the most enticing encounters, the sweetest of memories. Or so.

That’s how I decided to view things now what with the month of August drawing to a close, alas with a dainty nod towards likewise gloriously endless days of an endless autumn. For time is not a thing but a measure of things, as I recently learned.

Therefore, I spend these last endless days of this endless summer soaking in every ray of the glowing August sun, swimming in the river and, of course, cooking. Cooking summery things. Like this absolutely superb couronne de tomate based on a recipe I came across in the late George Sand’s recipe collection. A delightful entrée for a light summer lunch, all fluffy and ethereal, yet wonderfully rich in taste.

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To start with, I cooked a rich thick tomato sauce the other night. With lots of onions and white wine and garden tomatoes. Some herbs, celery and a potato to take away the acidity. You may or may not put a little temper into the sauce by adding a little red pepper. Or Hungarian gulasch paprika powder.

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The next day I started on the couronne by preparing a thick sauce béchamel:

Melt two nut sized pieces of butter in a pan and heat 2dl of milk in a separate pan. Stir two generous spoonfuls of fine flour (the finer the fluffier the couronne will become – I took T45 wheat flour here) into the molten butter, and add the warm milk while vigorously whipping the mass until it sets. Take away from the heat immediately. Add salt and a pinch of grated muscat.

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The couronne will be cooked in the oven in a bain barie, which means a pot in a pot of water. I used a tin casserole big enough to keep swimming the savarin mould I wanted to use to this purpose. Fill the casserole about two-third with water, put it into your oven and pre-heat to about 170°C.

Stir four egg yolks and four spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the béchamel. The mass should be thick and creamy. If you think it’s too liquid, just add another cloud of flour. Then whip the whites. Whip them white until the mass could be used to be towered up on your head like poor late Marie Antoinette’s hair. Carefully fold under the enriched béchamel (working with care here will help the couronne to rise in the oven, so don’t crush the happy egg white bubbles).

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The tricky thing actually about this recipe is to get the couronne out of the savarin mould after baking. Therefore, butter your mould as generously as possible, and flour it well powdered before pouring the mass into the mould. Cover with tin foil.

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Bake in the bain marie for one hour. Letting it cool for about 15 minutes may facilitate the couronne getting properly out of the mould. Serve with warm tomato sauce and fresh basil.

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