Rejoice! It’s tomato season! Supermarket shelves might look the same all year round, but head to any farmer’s market and you’ll see what I mean.
We went to Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market (more on that next week – stay tuned!) where we got chatting to Nathan and Sam, the friendly faces behind the Wild Country Organics stand. They spoke to us about the sixteen – yes, sixteen – varieties of tomato they had in stock: Big, beefy and wrinkly reds, smooth small yellows, perfectly sweet green toms and tart, sticky tomatillos. A veritable rainbow of colours and flavours. Scroll down for photos of glorious produce, as well as the tasty things I whipped up with my market haul.
First up: A solid, basic tomato sauce. This sauce is a staple because it is so very versatile. I try to make a batch every week so that there’s always some in the fridge!
Your choice of recipe is not what matters most here: the key is to use the freshest and ripest tomatoes you can find. Beyond that, the sauce is endlessly customisable. Try this recipe, or this one. Add capers or anchovies or olives. My twist (especially if a pan of sauce is appearing before guests) is to include a few stems of whole tomatoes on the vine, simply because they look beautiful. A few sprigs of fresh rosemary added at the end also dress up the dish – for your eyes and your nose and your tongue!
The sauce can be used in pasta dishes, of course, but I also love it on pizza or as a base for roasting meats. However, my favourite use for this sauce might also be the simplest: Spooned onto pan-fried bread or crostini and piled high with cured meats, mozzarella, fresh pepper and herbs. This makes for a delicious snack or an easily assembled plate of hors d’Oeuvres.
Next Stop: Making Bloody Marys! Why use packaged tomato puree when you can blitz your own toms in the blender? Simply substitute the same volume of home-made tomato juice into your favourite Bloody Mary recipe (see ours above), and you’re ready to go. I sometimes like to add horseradish instead of tabasco, and a sprinkling of chilli flakes on top never goes wrong. No celery? Add a few rocket leaves! Surely this is the next best thing to a salad when it comes to consuming raw tomatoes at their freshest!
Here in the UK, tomato season extends from June to October, so you still have a few months to make the most of your favourite varieties.