Food, Recipes

Red hot and raring to go

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They’re big and beefy and, when ripe, up for almost anything. Not to mention utterly delicious. And they’re just hitting their peak around about now. No, in spite of my penchant for Southern men, I’m not referring to the Crusaders, but tomatoes. Hence the beefsteak reference. At this time of the year, they’re the best thing around.

They’re fab. In sauces and soups and relishes, sandwiches, salads, or simply sliced on to hot buttered toast. In practically anything really, tomatoes are great. What ever did we do without them? Lucky for us, we don’t have to, especially now.

This is the month I hang out for all year, when the tomatoes are truly sublime, bursting with flavour after soaking up the last and hottest of the summer sun. Forget the wimpy hothouse varieties; gorge yourself on beefsteaks and remember what a truly good tomato is all about.

My advice to you is to rush along to your favourite fruiterer now and snaffle up the infinitely tastier outdoor toms while you still can – last week’s rain will have damaged the crop, and once the skins split, the growers don’t even bother sending them off to market.

Roasting tomatoes is one of the best ways to appreciate their toothsome qualities – below, two different takes on the same thing. The first, which I think I nicked from one of Nigel Slater‘s lipsmackingly tasty books, will give you the best (and definitely the easiest) tomato sauce in the world, just toss it through spaghetti for an instant meal.

The second is Delia‘s slightly poshed up version: dig into it for lunch or as a starter, with lots of crusty bread to sop up the divine juices. Heaven on a plate.

roasted tomato sauce
Halve 500g tomatoes and place in a dish big enough to take them in a single layer.

Add a chopped onion, a few whole cloves of garlic and half a cup of olive oil.

I usually manage to rustle up a wizened carrot and a stick of celery from the back of the vege bin – diced finely and added to the tomatoes, they’ll add sweetness and depth to the finished sauce, but aren’t vital.

You could throw a few fresh herbs on top, and a chilli if you fancy, before roasting them at 180C.

Fling the lot in a blender when the wonderful aroma of caramelised veges fills the house – after about an hour.

 

roasted tomato salad
12 large tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil
fresh basil
balsamic vinegar
olives
Skin the tomatoes first by pouring boiling water over them and leaving for one minute, then drain and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.

Now cut each tomato in half, around the middle rather than vertically, and place in a shallow, oiled roasting tin.

Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the garlic. Top each tomato with a basil leaf and a few drops of olive oil, turning the leaves in the oil to coat them.

Now place the roasting tin in the top half of the oven and roast the tomatoes at 200C for 50-60 minutes or until the edges are slightly blackened. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

All this can be done several hours ahead. When you’re ready to eat, transfer the tomatoes to individual serving plates, then whisk together 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the top. Artfully scatter olives and loads more basil over the lot. And don’t forget the bread.

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