This week, I translated and cooked a cake aux tomates séchées, or Savoury sundried tomato loaf as I'm calling it for the moment. This recipe was shared by a friend, written by hand, original source unknown.
What’s in a name? The importance of recipe names
As often seems to be the case, the recipe name caused me a bit of bother. Getting a recipe name right is so important. It can be what makes someone buy a recipe book or use a website. Online, it can affect a website’s SEO, impacting how easily not just that recipe, but the site as a whole, is found by users. It needs to be both appealing and descriptive.
It only seems natural to begin with appetisers – the need for the name to be appetising. The French name mentions tomates séchées, or ‘dried tomatoes.’ For some reason, ‘dried tomatoes’ does not sound in the least appealing in English. It conjures up images of shrivelled, dried-up, tasteless husks – a shadow of their former glory. Or perhaps even something you might find in a dehydrated meal for camping or hiking. If you mention ‘sun-dried’ or ‘semi-dried’ tomatoes however, suddenly I’m picturing plates of antipasti with gorgeous rich tomatoes drenched in olive oil. It seems I’m not the only one. A google search of ‘dried tomatoes’ displays numerous results for ‘sun-dried’ or ‘semi-dried’ tomatoes, and even the oxymoronically named ‘Oven Sun-Dried Tomatoes’ (elsewhere called simply ‘oven-dried tomatoes’), but no ‘dried tomatoes’ on its own.
Now, let’s consider the fact that the name needs to indicate what the dish is. In terms of this recipe, in France a cake seems to be a rectangular shaped bake, either sweet or savoury – as you can see from the cake recipes displayed on marmiton - the exception to this being recipes for Anglo Saxon cakes, such as ‘carrot cake’, where the entire English name has been used. According to Wikipedia originally the term was used in French to refer to fruitcake, but that the term – and presumably the recipes – has since evolved to include savoury variations, or cake salé.
Labelling the English recipe as a ‘cake’ would be misleading and perhaps confusing since it’s in a loaf-like shape and it is savoury. It could even be interpreted as a mistranslation. Another option is ‘loaf.’ This would portray the right shape, and savoury loaves do exist, although a search on BBC goodfood reveals far more sweet options. What’s more, it could be confused with an actual yeasted bread, since we also talk about a ‘wholemeal loaf.’ ‘Bread’ poses similar problems.
What else? We could modify one of the above terms to provide more information, by adding an adjective like ‘savoury’ or even highlighting another ingredient, i.e. ‘Gruyère’ or ‘cheesy’. For the moment, this is what I’ve chosen to do, but I could easily choose a different option on a different day. Do you have any other suggestions for names? I’d love to hear them!
No problems with the cooking, although the recipe was typically obtuse. It called for basil and herbes de Provence, which were added to the batter before baking. But should this have been fresh or dried herbs? I used dried, since when using fresh basil, this is normally only added at the end of a recipe – I think otherwise it would lose its flavour. But perhaps I’m wrong – do let me know. Regardless, the recipe turned out delicious. We ate it alongside soup (corn chowder) and it went particularly well.
It’s been grey and dreary of late, which is perfect soup weather in my book. Next week will feature a regional French soup.