Cocktail tomatoes

Makes enough to fill a 500ml Kilner jar
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I first stumbled upon this delicious drinks snack on a truffle-hunting trip in Italy last year. Along with Heston Blumenthal and some food writers, I was invited by Sacla - the Italian pasta sauce and antipasti people - to taste an un-launched version of these tomatoes at the home of Carlo Ercole, the owner of the company. Understandably, they didn't share the recipe, but we were trying to work out how to do it ourselves.

I've come up with a version that's not quite as delicious as the ones we tasted, but I'm getting close. Heston's probably got it spot-on by now.

It's a bit tedious blanching and peeling the cherry tomatoes, but it's well worth it. Once you have eaten the tomatoes you can re-use the oil by just heating it up, cooling it and draining off any residual juice, or use it to make a salad dressing or pasta sauce.

800g large cherry or cherry plum tomatoes (sometimes known as pomodorino)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
A few sprigs of fresh oregano, marjoram or thyme
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
Around 300ml olive oil and possibly a little more
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 75°C (if you're on gas, set the temperature as low as you can). If you're using cherry tomatoes on the vine, as I did, snip the stalks so you leave a bit attached to each one - your guests can use these bits to pick the tomatoes up. Bring a pan of water to the boil and have a bowl of iced water and a slotted spoon ready.

Meanwhile make a small cut on the skin of each cherry tomato to make them easier to peel when blanched. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water, in two batches. Remove them with the slotted spoon after 8-10 seconds and put them straight into the iced water. Carefully peel them and put them on to a baking tray lined with silicone or grease-proof paper and lightly season them.

Put them into the oven for 1 hour then remove them and prick each one with the point of a knife to release any juices. Return them to the oven for another hour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat about 100ml of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano and chilli, remove from the heat, mix with the rest of the oil and lightly season. Carefully put the tomatoes into a sterilised Kilner or jam jar, then pour the oil over them to cover. You may need to add more oil depending on the shape of the jar. Close the lid and store them in a cool place (the fridge is best) for up to six months.

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