Inspired by a #pantrychat on Twitter I have decided to collate a few of my favourite recipes with this delectable, and highly versatile vegetable (fruit if you’re a pedant). Tomatoes are something I always have in the galley. I have to keep them in the fridge as they tend to get too ripe too quickly in 35 degree heat! It is best, if you can, to keep them at room temperature but if you are keeping them in the fridge, bring them out a while before serving so they can warm up a little as they taste best at room temperature. There are thousands of varieties, all with their own strengths and here in the South of France I am particularly lucky with the wide selection available. I also use a lot of tinned tomatoes, the best type for me is the whole plum tomatoes without skin on as they cook down to make a wonderful thick and concentrated sauce. They are a store cupboard staple, especially with an Italian on board!
Raw Tomato Pasta
Big red tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, Parmesan, pasta, olive oil, black pepper, salt, balsamic vinegar
Gently fry the onions and the garlic in lots of olive oil (I mean loads, so that its kind of like a sauce). Cook the pasta as per the instructions. As I’ve said before, it is best to cook it fairly al dente and then drain (keeping some of the cooking water back), because when you mix it with the sauce it will continue to cook and there is nothing worse than soggy, over soft pasta (especially if you are cooking for Italians…). Once the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant add a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and season. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Put the drained pasta into the frying pan with the garlic and onions then chuck the tomatoes in. Add a little cooking water as it makes the pasta and olive oil all silky. Rip up loads of basil and stir it all in. Serve with more olive oil, Parmesan shavings and more black pepper. Very quick, very easy.
Cooked Tomato Pasta
Tinned plum tomatoes 800g, 3 onions, carrot, olive oil, salt, pepper.
This recipe is my bosses favourite and comes from his chef in Geneva. I have been taught it so that the boss doesn’t have to bring tupperware boxes of it with him in his luggage all the way to Ibiza…
Chop the onions and the carrot very finely, pop in a big sauce pan with lots of olive oil. Fry until soft and sweet. Add the tinned tomatoes, squashing them in your hands to make lumps – don’t chop. Reserve all the juice, you don’t need it in this recipe so put it in the fridge in a clean jar – its fantastic for making curry sauce or adding to tomato soups. Season and add a lot of olive oil, I’m talking half a litre to 800g of tinned tomatoes. A lot. Cook until all the liquid is evaporated off. It freezes well so make twice as much as you need, 800g of tomatoes will make enough to serve 7-8 people. Fantastic for defrosting should you get mobbed and need a quick lunch.
Roast Tomato Soup
A good selection of different tomatoes that are as ripe as possible, carrot, celery, leek, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar.
Stick the tomatoes in a roasting tray with lots of olive oil, a glug of balsamic and a sprinkling of brown sugar, cut a garlic bulb (not clove, whole bulb!) in half horizontally and put cut side up in the tray with them. Roast for 30 minutes at about 180 degrees, you want them to be a little blackened on the outside so perhaps 200 degrees towards the end will help. Meanwhile, make a sort of veg stock. Chop the carrot, celery, leak and onion into small pieces, cover with water and simmer until the carrot is soft. Once the tomatoes are done, add them to the veg mix in the saucepan, scoop out the soft roasted garlic too and then blend into a smooth puree. You could add some cream at this point if you like. Serve with croutons (chop up bread, fry in olive oil – or lightly toast in the oven if you’re after something healthier…fry it its so much better), extra black pepper and a swirl of EVOO.
*EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for those that haven’t twigged it yet. It took me awhile.
Bruschetta bread (or slices of french bread), mix of ripe tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, red onion.
For the best bruschetta dressing, make this an hour before you need it. Chop the tomatoes roughly, chop the red onion finely and mix with a good glug of EVOO, balsamic, rock salt and black pepper. Cover and leave on the counter, not in the fridge, for an hour. The tomato juices will leak out and make the most amazing liquor with the oil and vinegar. Mmmmm! Rub the slices of bread with the cut side of a garlic clove and then toast/grill/griddle. Drizzle them with olive oil. Load with the tomato mix and top with a basil leaf. Serve as a snack before dinner (nibble nibble), or as a lunch. Good with crisp white wine.
Squid in Tomato Sauce
Last night I cooked this and we all sat down and had a ‘family’ meal with the owner too. It is based on a recipe his daughter gave me while we were away in Ibiza and it really is delicious. I was skeptical at first as squid can be a bit tricky, going chewy and tough if its over cooked. However, long slow cooking leaves it just as tender as short, hot cooking – its somewhere in between where it all goes wrong! Little squid are more tender and soft so best to get the smaller ones when buying from the fishmonger.
1kg cleaned squid, two tins tomatoes (plum without skin), garlic, onion, glass white wine, seasoning
Fry onions and garlic until soft and sweet then add the glass of wine. Simmer until reduced by a third and then add the tomatoes, squishing the whole plums between your fingers as they go in. Cook for ten minutes then add the sliced squid, legs and all. Pop the lid on and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with rice, green salad and a crusty loaf. So, so simple, and really, really tasty 🙂