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?


Jean said...

Or what about the excellent "tomatoes grown for extra flavour" which I have seen on packets. That would be opposed to tomatoes grown with no flavour then?

TonyM said...

Mmmm this reminds me that I have gonbe a whole summer without tasting a proper tomato! Well, other than those I had in Italy!

Beth (jamandcream) said...

I know what you mean about the tasteless things you get over here. It never fails to amaze me what we are missing out on when we go abroad for our holidays and taste proper tomatoes!

Fiona Beckett said...

Absolutely, notsupermum! Think I also remember spotting tree-ripened apples . . .

Welcome, Tony and good to hear from you! Best place to buy tomatoes in the UK is a street market, I reckon. Hope you get back to Italy - or France - again soon!

Hi Beth - nice to hear from you again. I think tomatoes have improved in the UK in the last few years but they're so outrageously expensive!

TonyM said...

Thanks Fiona - either France or Italy would be fine :o)but unlikely until next year now :o(

TrillianAstra said...

I have to admit that I'm a sucker and buy the premium tomatoes if I'll be eating them raw.

I think that some fruit is picked while unripe and 'ripened' (or at least turned the appropriate colour) afterwards, so that it will last longer.

Fiona Beckett said...

I'm sure you're right Charlie. It's scary how long veg spend in storage nowadays - potatoes for 9 or 10 months, I seem to remember.

Think it's worth buying cherry tomatoes for eating raw. They generally are sweeter but again you tend to find them cheaper in markets