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Tomatoes

Fresh organic ingredients are best

Tomatoes are native to western South America and are related to potatoes, peppers and aubergines. At first they were treated with suspicion and thought to be poisonous. Last century they became popular and were widely used in Spain and Italy. In Britain they were promoted as the 'Love Apple'. Now they are one of the most important fresh ingredients in the kitchen. Recently their health benefits have been recognised.

Among the many classic tomato dishes is tomato soup, cooked to a delicate orange colour with stock or milk, or simmered with vegetables, garlic and basil.

Recipes " la provencale" indicate that tomatoes are in the dish and are used with fish, meat and vegetables, in sauces and stuffings, with pasta and in superb salads. The natural astringency of tomatoes means that, in salads, they need only be sprinkled with a fruity olive oil. Chopped tomatoes add a depth of flavour to all sorts of meat and vegetarian meals.

Chilled Spanish Gazpacho Soup

Here's a good way of using tomatoes, cucumber and peppers in a classic soup for serving ice-cold on a summer's day.

  • 1lb 8oz ripe tomatoes
  • 4 tblspns olive oil
  • Approx 4 inch piece of cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tblspns wine vinegar
  • 2 or 3 spring onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 heaped tspn fresh chopped basil
  • Half a large red or green pepper, seeded & chopped
  • Approx pint cold water
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt & freshly milled black pepper

Skin tomatoes, then roughly chop the flesh, (removing seeds if desired). Blend together the tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions and pepper, adding seasoning, herbs, oil and vinegar until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the cold water to thin the soup if necessary. Served chilled and garnish with more red and green peppers, cucumber, parsley, etc.

Tomato Salad 'Fines Herbes'

  • 8 Large Ripe Tomatoes
  • 6-8 tblspn olive oil
  • 8 tblspns finely chopped parsley
  • 2-3 tblspn wine vinegar
  • 4 tblspns finely chopped onion
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tblspn finely chopped garlic
  • Vinaigrette sauce
  • 2 tblspn finely chopped basil & tarragon

Peel and cut tomatoes horizontally into even slices. Re-form and place them stem side down in a shallow dish. Mix next 8 ingredients to form a thick, green, well-flavoured dressing. Sandwich of the dressing carefully between the layers of each tomato. Chill. Dilute the remaining dressing with a well flavoured vinaigrette sauce, seasoned to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon over herb-stuffed tomatoes and serve. Serves 4.

Tomato Chutney

There are many recipes for chutney; here's a fairly straightforward one:

  • 6lb ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 1 level tspn cayenne
  • 8 oz onions
  • 12 oz soft brown sugar
  • 4 level tspns whole allspice
  • 1 tbspn salt
  • pint vinegar

Put toms and thinly sliced onions in a large pan. Add the allspice, tied in muslin, and the cayenne and salt. Simmer until the mixture is pulpy, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer until thick. Pot and cover.

Freezing tomatoes

It is easy to freeze surplus tomatoes. Just chop them up, skinning them first by immersing them briefly in boiling water, a few at a time. (They take up less space in the freezer if first simmered down to a puree.) Use frozen tomatoes in the winter instead of tinned ones. To use, drain off surplus liquid after defrosting and add some tomato paste to thicken, if required.


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