Rowntree’s Jelly classics – Tomato Ratatouille
By Jaanika Reinvald.
In honour of the Diamond Jubilee in 1983 the Rowntree factory published a booklet with a selection of its best jelly recipes. A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to browse through the recipes and one in particular caught my attention. Having grown up in Estonia where meat jelly is one of the traditional dishes always served at Christmas I should not have been caught off guard by another savoury jelly but Tomato Ratatouille jelly looked just so different that I could not help but volunteer to try it out at home.
The list of ingredients is simple:
- 2 Rowntree’s Lime Jellies (can easily be replaced with Hartley’s Lime Jelly)
- 1 x 16 oz. can of Ratatouille (most probably sneakily placed in one single line between different varieties of canned chopped tomatoes)
- 1/2 pt. of Tomato Juice
- Black Pepper
- 1 Clove Crushed Garlic (optional)
- Lemon Slices, Cucumber Slices, Rosemary Sprigs, Olives (for garnish)
Once the ordeal of shopping is done the rest of the instructions are rather easy to follow. Ideally one would use a 2 pint jelly mould but in the absence of one a regular 2 pint glass bowl will do just as well. The first step is to decorate the jelly mould. As I am not a big fan of olives I chose to use slices of lemon and arrange them in a sunburst pattern.
Next step is to mix both of the jellies with boiling water and when it is all dissolved, stir in the tomato juice, ratatouille, black pepper and garlic. At this point the entire mixture looks like a big bowl of tomato soup with an occasional piece of zucchini, eggplant or bell pepper rising to the surface. A step I did not follow and as a result messed up my beautiful sunburst pattern was spooning a bit of the mixture on top of the garnish at the bottom of the mould. Having hastily poured part of the mixture into the bowl I placed it into the freezer letting it set for about 20 minutes.
I poured on the rest of the mixture and having forgotten to check the setting details on the Jelly packet left the mixture in the fridge over the night, occasionally prodding it gently to estimate the level of settedness. As the morning approached I was quite excited to see how the jelly had turned out. I turned the glass bowl upside down on a plate but the jelly did not come out immediately. Instead of waiting for it to fall out of its own accord I came up with a cunning plan to speed up the process and for the next five minutes was heating up the bowl with a hairdryer.
Obediently the jelly flopped out onto the plate and stayed in one piece. Despite my earlier doubts after adding a few decorative cucumber slices and some rosemary sprigs the entire experiment looked rather appetizing. And so came time for the ultimate test – tasting. I prepared a slice of hot toast, cut a slice of jelly, which in the end turned out to be surprisingly solid, and dug into the dish.
I am sure I followed the instructions correctly but I am not entirely certain that the ingredients are today exactly what they were in 1983. The only other thing I am certain of is the end result which could only be described as evil or illegal. But, then again, that is just a matter of taste.
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In order to bring some objectivity to assessing the flavour nuances of the tomato ratatouille jelly I took the specimen down to Cheryl, a vegetarian friend of mine, who, I knew was better equipped to judge the edibleness of the experiment. To my great relief Cheryl agreed with me that the combination of these tastes in this particular state of matter was weird but she did come up with a possible solution – if the combination does not work in jelly then why not make it into a soup instead!