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Learning to make traditional ntomatofai like a pro

This delicious Greek dish will no doubt be a hit served either as a starter or a main

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08 June 2017

Ntomatofai is a recipe I have learnt from my mum Antigoni and one she learnt from her mother Stavroula. It has now become one of my signature dishes and all my family and friends become very excited and animated when I prepare it.

This recipe was, in fact, the catalyst for the creation of Kali Orexi.

It takes a bit of time and lots of love to make, but the love will come back to you many times over when you share it. Try it and see!

Ingredients:
1.5kg soft, ripe tomatoes
7 green bullhorn peppers
7 red bullhorn peppers
1 rounded soup spoon raw sugar
2 tsps salt
At least 200ml extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Method:

Prepare the tomatoes
· Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place them in a bowl.
· Blitz the tomatoes with a hand-held mixer, blender or food processor, until pureed/liquefied.
· Pour the puree into a large baking dish and season with salt, sugar, and a generous amount of EVOO (approximately 50ml).
· The tomato puree needs to be baked until most or all the water in it has been cooked off.
· Place the baking dish into an oven preheated to 200°C for approximately one hour. Initially check and stir the puree every 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, check every five minutes for pools of juice forming within the baking dish by pushing the puree out from the centre of the pan with a spoon. As the puree continues to cook, you will see less liquid pooling within the baking dish. It's very important to keep a close eye on the oven and the baking dish at this stage because the tomato puree can burn easily once it's dehydrated.
· Once there is little or no juice pooling in the dish and the tomato puree is essentially dehydrated, remove the baking dish from the oven and set it aside.
· Keep the oven on.

Prepare the peppers
· Wash all the peppers thoroughly, removing any dirt or dust.
· Cut the tops off the green peppers; cut them in half; remove the veins and seeds; and cut each half into thirds on a diagonal, creating long strips.
· Generously drizzle EVOO (approximately 25ml) over the base of a large baking dish.
· Place pepper pieces, in a single layer, into the baking dish.
· Drizzle more EVOO on top of the peppers and season with salt.
· Place the baking dish of peppers into the hot oven, for approximately 30 minutes or until lightly browned on the underside.
· Turn the peppers over and return them to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
· Once browned on both sides, remove the peppers from the oven and carefully place a single layer of them over the dehydrated tomato puree. Set aside.
· Repeat the above steps to prepare the red peppers.
· Once browned on both sides, remove the red peppers from the oven and carefully add them to the baking dish of green peppers and tomato puree.

Bake the Ntomatofai
· Generously drizzle the ntomatofai with EVOO (approximately 75ml).
· Return the baking dish to the hot oven for 10-15 minutes or until the peppers have browned a little more on top.
· Remove the baking dish from the oven and drizzle with more EVOO (approximately 25ml).
· Serve with crusty bread or risoni rice and enjoy!

Ntomatofai key points
· Use overripe, soft tomatoes as they have more flavour.
· Use bullhorn peppers as they have thinner flesh and skin, with less water and more flavour. Their skin also remains attached to the flesh.
· Red peppers have a higher sugar content than green peppers and will caramelise quicker, so it is best to bake the different peppers separately.
It's very important that you don't place more than one layer of peppers in the baking dish as they will not roast and caramelise, but rather steam cook.
· All the baking is done at 200°C in a fan-forced oven.
· Cumulatively use 200ml or more EVOO when preparing this dish. The EVOO will improve the caramelisation of the tomato puree and peppers as they bake and the extra drizzle at the end of all the baking will enhance the flavour and experience of this dish.

Risoni rice
½ cup risoni
1-2 tbsp EVOO
2 cups medium grain rice
1 ½ tsp salt
3 ¾ cups water

Add the risoni and the EVOO to a pot. Stirring constantly, brown the risoni over a medium heat. Add the rice and stir through. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low for a gentle simmer and place a vented lid on the pot. Cook until all the water has been absorbed. Place a paper or cloth towel between the pot and the lid. The towel collects any steam coming off the rice and stops it from dripping back into the pot before the rice is served.

You can also watch a video tutorial on youtube.com/watch?v=gjxVaLlYzc0

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