Cook with Jamie: It's tom time! From giant beefsteaks to tiny cherries, there’s no end of exciting tomato varieties – or mouthwatering ways to cook them
Jamie says tomatoes are versatile and tenacious
Fifteen years ago, if you’d walked into a
British supermarket chances are you would have had three varieties of
rock-hard tomatoes to choose from, at best.
Thankfully, we now know the humble salad tomato is just one in a diverse army of tomatoes, and today’s supermarket selection includes everything from robust, thicker-skinned varieties that last longer on the shelf, to plum and cherry tomatoes on the vine, in shades of red, yellow and green.
Beyond that, there are many more weird and wonderful varieties to discover, whether huge beefsteaks almost the size of melons, or tiny cherry tomatoes so delicate they need to be eaten off the bush. Different kinds of tomatoes have different traits and are good for different things.
There are a million reasons why you should get more interested and passionate about tomatoes. They’re fantastic to watch grow and you can’t believe how good a tomato tastes until you’ve had one from your own crop.
Helpfully, tomato seeds are tenacious, which means you’ve got a great chance of getting things right the first time around – even if by accident.
You’ve missed the growing season this year, but get your seeds ready for next year and look around over the next few weeks to see which varieties look and taste interesting to you.
You’ll never be short of ways to use up your tomato crops. Whether you fry, sun-dry or roast them; turn them into chutneys, pickles or ketchup; chop them up for salsas or salads; cook them down for sauces and soups; or juice them for the bloodiest Mary cocktail… they’re endlessly versatile. Here are a few of my favourite tomato-centric recipes. I hope they convince you to grow your own crop for this time next year.
FRESH TOMATO BROTH
Using a whole chicken here gives incredible flavour. Shred the leftovers in salads, sandwiches, with pasta – whatever you can think of!
Fresh tomato broth
1 x 2kg (4lb 8oz) free-range chicken, fat trimmed off
4 large onions, roughly chopped
4 celery sticks, trimmed, roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves
20 large mixed yellow, orange and red tomatoes (about 2.5kg/5lb), roughly chopped
1tbsp tomato pure (optional)
A few soft herb tips such as parsley, basil and mint, olive oil infused with basil (from supermarkets), and Parmesan, to serve
Place the chicken, onions, celery, garlic and tomatoes in your largest saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover them all, then pop the lid on and bring to the boil over a high heat – this should take about 30 minutes. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer over a medium heat with the lid askew and cook for 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through. Next, carefully lift the chicken out with tongs and put to one side. Pour the soup through a fine sieve, discarding what’s left behind, and then strain it through 4 layers of muslin (from cook shops). Taste to check the flavour balance, and season with a little salt and pepper, if needed. Skim off the fat if you’re serving the soup immediately. If you’re leaving it for another time, chill, then scoop off any fat that sets on the surface. Gently reheat the soup before serving. If you think it needs a colour boost, scoop out a cup of the broth and add 1tbsp tomato pure to it. Mix until well combined, then return to the broth and mix again. Serve with a drizzle of basil- infused oil, a few herb tips and a shaving of Parmesan.
CATALAN STYLE BREAD WITH SQUASHED TOMATOES
Serves 10-12 as a starter
Catalan style bread with squashed tomatoes
2 large, good-quality ciabatta loaves, halved lengthways
2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthways
A few ripe tomatoes, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat your grill to high. Once hot, toast your bread on both sides until golden and crisp. Transfer the bread to a serving board and rub each piece with the cut-side of the garlic cloves. Rub and squash the insides of the tomatoes into the bread; get a good, even coating. When you’ve squeezed out all the tasty, juicy stuff, discard the skins. Sprinkle the bread with a little sea salt. Add the toppings – some of my favourites are: a nice covering of shaved manchego cheese; a handful of chopped olives; a scattering of onion cress, baby basil and mint; a few slices of serrano ham, or some rocket leaves with a few soft herbs sprinkled over. Add a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then hack into chunks and let everyone have some. Amazing with a cool, crisp beer.
Gnarly pan -seared prawns with Sicilian salsa
Serves 4 as a starter
Gnarly pan-seared prawns
1tsp sweet paprika
2 garlic cloves, chopped
16 raw king prawns, peeled but tails intact, then butterflied
A large knob of butter
Juice of 1 lemon
A handful of raisins
A handful of pine nuts
A small bunch of fresh dill or fennel tops
For the Sicilian salsa
300g (10oz) red tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1cm (in) piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves picked, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
You can make the salsa in a food processor if you want to save time, but I make mine by hand. Add the tomatoes, spring onions, ginger, chilli, coriander and lime juice to a bowl with a glug of vinegar and a couple of glugs of extra-virgin olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Taste to check the balance of flavours and tweak with a little more of anything you think it needs. Mix the paprika and garlic with a tiny pinch of salt and a good pinch of pepper and 1tbsp olive oil. Add the prawns and mix until they’re all coated in that lovely flavour. Put a large frying pan on a high heat and add the butter and a drizzle of oil. Once sizzling, add the prawns and lemon juice. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning halfway, until they take on a good bit of colour. At this point, add the raisins and pine nuts and tear in most of the dill or fennel. Toss for a further minute or so until the prawns are cooked through and are gnarly and sticky. Spread your salsa over a large platter and use tongs to transfer the prawns on top. Scatter over the pine nuts and raisins, then tear the remaining dill or fennel and scatter over the top before serving.
SIMPLE SATURDAY NIGHT SUPPER: FISHCAKES
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2cm (in) piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 deseeded fresh red chillies, 1 roughly chopped, 1 finely sliced
a bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
400g (14oz) pollock fillet, skinned, roughly chopped
1 large free-range egg, beaten
A splash of soy sauce
6tbsp rice wine vinegar (from supermarkets)
1 small shallot, finely sliced
1-2tbsp peanut or vegetable oil.
the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chopped chilli and coriander in a
processor till finely chopped. Add the fish and pulse for 1 minute.
Remove to a bowl. Stir in most of the egg and the soy. Add the rest of
the egg if the mix is too dry. With wet hands, form into 8 patties. Dip
each side in flour, then chill for 30 minutes to firm up. Heat the rice
wine vinegar and sugar in a pan, stirring, for 5-10 minutes, until the
sugar dissolves. Cool; add the sliced chilli and shallot. Heat the oil
in a large pan. Fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side, or till
golden and cooked. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.
EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: CHEDDAR SCONES
Easy to bake cheddar scones
225g (8oz) flour
1tsp baking powder
55g (2oz) butter, cubed
50g (1oz) mature Cheddar, grated
200ml (7fl oz) buttermilk
Mix the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Rub in the butter to resemble breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese, apart from 1tbsp. Add the buttermilk. Knead briefly. Pat to 1cm (in) thick, cut 6cm (2in) rounds, brush with milk and scatter on the leftover cheese. Bake at 220C/gas 7 for 12-15 mins, until golden. Serve with cheese and pickles.