Getting the Most out of… Tomatoes

Published / Written by Anna Scott / No Comments Yet

Whenever folk ask me what my favourite vegetable is (ok, this isn’t a particularly common occurrence, but it’s something I dwell on from time to time), my mind often conjures up something slightly glamorous, like an aubergine. Now, I love aubergines, but it takes a lot of work to get them to taste delicious and it’s incredibly easy for them to taste not-so-delicious. So what is more deserving of my top vegetable title? I think it’s about time I took a closer look at that workhorse of every family kitchen – the humble tomato. Ok, so technically it’s a fruit, but it functions as a vegetable and wear’s vegetable clothing so, for the purposes of this post, it is an honorary vegetable, ok? Whether it’s in fresh, tinned or ketchup form, I think most of us can agree that feeding a family a varied diet is pretty much impossible without them. So I’m going to spend a bit of time giving my NEW FAVOURITE FRUIT VEGETABLE a bit of well-deserved TLC…

Fresh…

They’re not just salad filler you know, although if you use them primarily in salads, I’m not going to hold that against you. But what should you be looking for in the perfect fresh tomato? Well from experience, I can tell you that a home grown one tastes a gazillion times better than anything I’ve ever bought in a supermarket. Granted, these tomatoes were grown when we lived in Australia, where the sunshine quota is a fraction (ahem) higher than it is in Blightly, but if you have the space and the means to try your hand at cultivating them yourself, I would highly recommend it. Failing that, the supermarkets are going to be the place where we will probably end up getting most of our fresh toms. Now, in a lot of cases, I highly recommend buying items from the basics/value/money saving ranges available – many of these products are fantastic and cheap and you’d be mad to spend more, but in the case of fresh tomatoes, I, personally, would spend a little bit extra and opt for better quality – tomatoes are all about flavour so buying the blander offerings is a bit of false economy. A small pack of cherry tomatoes is normally about £1, and if I’m using them in salads, I usually get two servings out of one pack.

This next suggestion might not be quite so obvious – tomatoes on toast. Yes, you read that correctly. Sliced tomatoes on buttered toast. And don’t forget the salt and pepper. Tomatoes demand good seasoning – FACT.

Tinned…

Who doesn’t use tinned tomatoes on a regular basis? Whether it’s for pasta sauces or soups, they’re very much a store cupboard staple, in this house at any rate. My absolute favourite way to use them is probably one of the simplest – fry some just garlic in olive oil for a matter of seconds (very important- you do not want it to burn), and then add two tins and cook until a thick consistency. Finish with salt, pepper (and perhaps a touch of brown sugar for added sweetness) and a knob of unsalted butter, then uses with pretty much anything. When it comes to the quality of said tomatoes, I’m slightly less fussy – the budget variety is fine, but I do find I tend to use slightly more tomato puree to make up for the lack of richness. But sometimes not, it just depends on that particular tin or carton. Anyway, you can’t go wrong at 35p a time.

One day I will crack the code of making the perfect tomato ketchup. Ok, so I’ve never actually tried, mostly because of the enormous amount of pressure – I mean, it’s tomato ketchup, the king/queen of condiments – what if I fail? What if it’s ruins ketchup for me? I’ll let you know when I’m brave enough to attempt it, but for now, tomatoes, we salute you and all your hard work. Long may it continue.