Tuesday, 2 September 2008
A tale of two tomatoes
One rarely acknowledged reason why recipes don’t always work out is the quality of the ingredients.
Take a look at this picture. This is the tomato salad I made yesterday from locally grown tomatoes in the south of France (which incidentally cost 1 euro (81p) a kilo). All you have to do is cut them up, season them with salt and pepper, pour over a little olive oil, toss them and leave them for 10 minutes or so. Then just before serving them sprinkle over a little red wine vinegar and some fresh basil (2.50€ for a bushy plant that doesn’t die 3 days after you get it home). The lavish amount of liquid in the bowl is the juice that comes out of the tomatoes as they macerate.
I’ve tried to make a salad like this in the UK, but you simply can’t, so you have to compensate by adding more oil which makes it less healthy or more onion or herbs which makes it a different sort of salad.
No problem about that but we’re paying a fortune for tomatoes that don’t have a fraction of the juiciness or flavour.
In terms of cooked dishes the way I get round it is to use a tablespoon of tomato paste before I add fresh tomatoes or mix them half and half with tinned tomatoes (which makes a good sauce for meatballs)
And the thing that really gets my goat? 'Vine-ripened' tomatoes (for which you always pay a premium)! What else are tomatoes ripened on, for goodness sake?