The ubiquitous tomato has hundreds of varieties. try a few novel ways of cooking this daily ingredient.
My passion for food and its provenance has led me down many paths across the world. The stunning and inspirational gardens in the Emerald Isle of Northern Ireland are spread over hundreds and thousands of acres, and in them grow a kaleidoscope of fresh vegetables and fruits, from artichokes to plum tomatoes, asparagus to assorted award-winning produce that promote the cause of sustainability and taste great too. I particularly love the tomatoes here, a mind-boggling 100 varieties of them!
Tomato is considered both a fruit and a vegetable and easy for both home and commercial growth. The scientific name of tomatoes is Solanum lycopersicum and they are believed to be native to Mexico. However, the Spanish colonisation of America and Central America caused tomato cultivation to spread. There are hundreds of tomato varieties. From marble-sized grape or cherry tomatoes, to juicy salad tomatoes, meaty paste tomatoes, and huge, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes. Their colours range from deep crimson to orange, yellow, green, purple and chocolate.The variety of tomatoes from cherry to heirloom and hybrid offer the cook a chance to try a multitude of recipes from sweet and sour to tart and tangy.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Use your nose, not your eyes, when buying tomatoes, experts suggest.
The most flavourful ones will have a rich tomato aroma unless they are pre-packaged at big supermarkets. Select tomatoes that are round, full and feel heavy for their size, with no bumps or blemishes.. The skin should be taut and not shrivelled. Store fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool, dark place, stem-side down, and use within a few days.
“Refrigeration is the no 1. enemy of the tomato as it stunts flavour and hampers the quality of the flesh,” says Chef Niall McKenna of James Street South Restaurant, Belfast. The culprit is a compound called Z-3 hexenel, which determines the tomato’s scent and taste. The development process which turns tomato’s linolenic acid to the Z-3 that makes our mouth and nose sing is hindered by cold. “Bring the tomato to room temperature if you must refrigerate to enhance taste,” McKenna recommends.
“If the recipe calls for the tomatoes to be pureed, be sure to remove the skin. The easiest way is to remove the stem with a paring knife, then plunge the tomato into boiling water for 15 seconds. Then immediately transfer the tomato into ice water. The peel should come off easily on strips,” suggests Chef Paul Kinny, culinary director, Phoenix Mills Private Limited.
Tomatoes hold 18 calories per 100 gms and are extremely low in any fat content with zero cholesterol, so adding tomatoes to your diet is a great way to be proactive about good nutrition. “Tomatoes are full of health-enhancing properties and have an outstanding combination of essential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients which neutralises harmful free radicals in the blood,” says nutritionist Kashish Alimchandani.
Lycopene, a unique photochemical present in tomatoes, reduces the chances of developing lung, colorectal, prostate, pancreas and stomach cancer by slowing the growth of cancerous cells. Meanwhile, vitamin A works wonders for your skin, hair, bones and teeth. It improves vision and prevents development of night blindness. Beta carotenoids in tomatoes lower risk of developing breast cancer, metabolic syndrome like blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. It helps skin retain youth by reversing signs of ageing and damage done by ultra violet rays.
PASTA WITH TOMATO SAUCE
120 gm pasta
10 gm garlic
2 gm basil (Tulsi)
2 gm salt
40 gm chopped tomatoes
80 ml tomato sauce (Recipe below)
20 ml olive oil
Blanch the pasta in salted boiling water. Heat the olive oil. Sauté sliced garlic and add blanched pasta, chopped tomatoes and shreaded basil to it. Add seasoning. Heat the tomato sauce. Put sauce on the plate and toss pasta over it.
1 kg tomatoes
45 gm onions
15 gm butter
50 gm carrot
15 gm celery
10 gm basil (Tulsi)
700 ml water
Heat the butter in a pan and sauté the onions till they are translucent. Add chopped carrots, celery and cook till soft. Pass through a mincer and make puree. Add the puree to the tomatoes and cook them together.
Adjust the consistency by adding water. Stir occasionally and blend well to get a smooth sauce. Season with basil leaves.
BARBECUED CHICKEN WINGS
250 gm chicken wings
1 tbsp garlic chopped
For BBQ Sauce
½ tsp ginger
½ cup chopped tomatoes
½ green chilli
5 gm chopped garlic
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp turmeric
1/3 cup chopped pineapple
½ tbsp oil
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
Salt to taste
½ tbsp apple cider
¼ tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
30 ml cola
1/3 tbsp chopped bird eye chilli
Wash, dry, and season the wings with the salt, garlic, pepper, green chilli, turmeric, paprika and cola. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Spray a cookie sheet generously with cooking spray.
Place the wings in a single layer on cookie sheet, and place in the oven.
Cook for 35-40 minutes, depending on size of the wings, turning once.
While they are baking, make the sauce by simmering the sauce ingredients over lowest heat.
When the wings are done baking, carefully dip them in the sauce, and place them back in oven for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce starts bubbling.
Recipe courtesy: 212 All Good
SMOKED TOMATO AND BARLEY SOUP
1/2 cup chopped onions
6 large ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
5 basil leaves
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp raw sugar
2 tsp cooked barley
1/3 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 cup wood charcoal
1/2 tbsp butter
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, combine the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and oil, and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are almost tender.
Blanch and smoke the tomatoes in a deep bowl with charcoal and butter.
Then add the water, smoked tomatoes, 2 tbsp cooked barley, ground black pepper and smoked paprika powder.
Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until soup is thickened.
Put in a mix jar and make a fine smooth paste. Strain and serve hot, garnished with cooked barley.
Recipe courtesy: 212 All Good