Cook with Jamie: It"s tom time! From giant beefsteaks to tiny cherries, theres no end of exciting tomato varieties or mouthwatering ways to cook…

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

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

Fresh tomato broth

Serves 16-18

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

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

Gnarly pan-seared prawns

1tsp sweet paprika

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Olive oil

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

FISHCAKES

Delicious fishcakes

Delicious fishcakes

Serves 4

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

1tbsp flour

6tbsp rice wine vinegar (from supermarkets)

2tsp sugar

1 small shallot, finely sliced

1-2tbsp peanut or vegetable oil.

Pulse
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

Serves 8

Easy to bake 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

Milk

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.