Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Tomatoes from the Garden

Tomato sorbet, tomato powder, pickled tomatoes

Garden Tomatoes-8

This is my take on one of those plates of food that should only be served as part of many courses in a well-heeled restaurant. But with kilos of tomatoes ripening at the end of summer last year and limited desire to turn them all into passata, there was an opportunity to try some new techniques and play around a bit. One of the most surprising things was just how well the elements work as preservers. A sorbet whose refreshing tanginess could be paired sweet or savoury; pickled tomatoes pack a punch to lift salads up a notch; a tomato powder that uses leftover skins and seeds to deliver an unami hit to anything it’s sprinkled over.

The stars of the show are all out of season in Europe now but hopefully this will serve friends in warmer climes at this time of year. Besides, it’s nice to bring some summer back now the weather has turned. 

Garden Tomatoes-3Garden Tomatoes-7Two chefs inspired these. Firstly, Quique Dacosta’s restaurant in Denia which I was fortunate enough to visit last summer. His playful and minimal approach to Mediterranean cuisine is a showcase of creativity and innovation, and one of the highlights for me was a plate that explored many interpretations of the Spanish staple: the tomato. Secondly, Thomas Keller’s book ‘The French Laundry’ captures life inside and the inspiration behind an American institution. Although TFL is rumoured to be on the slide and its sister restaurant Per Se was ruthlessly taken down in the NYT this week, the book is one of the best kitchen companions for fine-tuning technique, inspiring pairings and impeccable presentation. His respect for ingredients and the importance of deriving pleasure from cooking clearly come through in every recipe and the refreshing first course tomato offerings are no exception.

Garden Tomatoes-28 Garden Tomatoes-19The elements of the dish work well on their own in other dishes or together, so here’s the recipe for the sorbet, powder, and my own for the pickled tomatoes. The basil oil and parmesan crisps can be found in TFL book or elsewhere online…

Tomato Sorbet (from The French Laundry)

1kg ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

 50g yellow onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

pinch of chopped tarragon

pinch of cayenne

210ml simple syrup

1/2 orange zest, julienned and brought to a boil in cold water, strained three times

Simmer the tomatoes for 45 minutes on a medium heat, stirring frequently until reduced by half.

Meanwhile gently cook the onion in the oil for around 7-8 minutes until tender

Blend the onions and tomatoes until smooth and pass through a tamis or fine sieve. Return 240ml of mixture to the blender, add the remaining ingredients and blend again before straining in a chinois. Cool in the fridge before freezing 350ml in a prepared ice-cream machine.

Tomato Powder (from The French Laundry)

1/2 cup finely chopped tomato pulp (from a peeled and seeded tomato)

Squeeze the tomato pulp in a towel to extract the excess moisture. Line a microwave tray with parchment paper and spread the tomatoes on in a thin layer. Microwave on the lowest possible power for 30 minutes, or until the pulp is completely dried out (also possible to dry in a low oven). It should retain its vibrant colour. Let cool to room temperature.

Grind the dried pulp in a coffee or spice grinder until very fine. If the mix is too wet, return to the microwave for 1-2 minutes more. Sift through a sieve to separate any remaining unbroken bits and store in a plastic container.

Pickled Tomatoes

The tomatoes can be peeled for a quicker brine.

15-25 cherry tomatoes

250ml red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled

sprig of rosemary or thyme

Sterilise the jars the pickle will be in. Peel the tomatoes. Combine the vinegar, sugar and 250ml of water in a pan an simmer for 5 minutes.

Place peeled tomatoes in the sterilised jars, add the garlic, herbs and any other seasonings you’d like. Pour over the pickling solution to the top of the jar and seal. Peeled tomatoes should be eaten within a week or they’ll go too soft.

Garden Tomatoes plate-1

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Summer is Coming – Home-dried Tomatoes

Welcome news to start this week for all those living in the UK with the prospect of some sun and balmy heights of 25C before the end of the week (well done to the Guardian for putting a downer on things for those living in Scotland though). Underused BBQ’s will be dragged out of sheds throughout the country, Pimm’s opened and pasty bodies exposed as summer finally arrives.

The weekend just gone here in Valencia was hot, nothing unusual there, clocking 34C on Saturday but for me it was the start of Summer with my first BBQ of the year. Prawns with alioli, squid, garlic and rosemary butterflied leg of lamb, chorizos and of course bananas on the coals. What it did miss however was some tomatoes, not your bland supermarket tomato, nor the popular sun-dried tomato (whose texture or taste is really not that great when bought in a jar?), but the semi-dry, over-priced, full-flavoured morsels of goodness that are sun-blushed tomatoes.  Ok so done in the oven isn’t the same as the sun, but let’s not put too much confidence in British weather to stay good and leave them outside, besides when these come out you won’t be going to that deli counter any more.

Get to a grocer or market this weekend and grab a few kilos of very ripe tomatoes, preferably English as imported ones will lack that sweet-savoury caramel flavour that comes from being picked ripe. Even better if you have a bumper garden crop.

I used this recipe from the brilliant Heston Blumenthal at home, a must-have book for any ambitious home cook. The flavours are pretty provencal but obviously this type of recipe calls for individual taste so play around with herbs  and quantities to personal taste. The recipe forms part of a tomato tart which is  probably the best I have ever eaten, think tapenade, caramelised onions, pesto… salivating?

Removing the pulp and seeds first means a shorter time in the oven, and in my opinion removing the skin first leaves such a lovely, smooth texture at the end which is very worth the effort (for less hassle and less pleasure just leave them be, season and dry for 4-5 hours instead).

Oven-dried tomatoes 

medium to large very ripe tomatoes

cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

bay leaves, finely sliced

thyme sprigs

salt

caster sugar

olive oil

  • Peel tomatoes.
  • Cut in half and scoop out pulp and seeds.
  • Drain on kitchen paper for around 2 hours.
  • Oven at 100C.
  • Line baking tray(s) with parchment , place tomatoes cut-side up and add to each some garlic, bay and thyme. Season with salt and sugar.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and place in oven for 3 hours.

After 3 hours the result should be a dry but soft tomato, for me the texture was almost that of a dried apricot but less chewy. Eat that day drizzled with some good oil or store in a sterilized jar covered with oil – find endless uses for these in pastas, salads, tarts etc.. enjoy!