- Publish Date
- Friday, 1 January 2016, 12:06PM
- By Allyson Gofton
Today tomatoes come fresh, puree and pastes in tins of various ready-to-use flavours…but there’s nothing to touch a fresh tomato, so here’s the run down…
Small cocktail varieties: Sweet 100, Black Cherry, Gardener’s Delight, Sun Cherry…little bite sized, intensely flavoured, sweet tomatoes. Children love them and they’re ideal as a healthy snack or in the lunchbox.
Low acid tomatoes: Usually on the shelf as ‘acid free, these have firm flesh, fewer seeds and are not as juice. Generally an oval shape, sometimes misshapen, they are pinkish in colour.
Roma is a plum-shaped, rich red lower acid tomato that is possibly the best of all for Italian dishes and tomato sauces, with an intense flavour.
Salad tomatoes: Money Maker, Best Boy, Red Beacon, Russian Red.
Large, fleshy and round: Beefsteak, Delicious.
Outdoor tomatoes make up a small part of the total crop and are usually more irregular in shape but may have good flavour.’
Heritage tomatoes some old-fashioned varieties are back in favour and are available either at garden centres or by mail from specialist producers, some of whom also sell through farmers’ markets.
New Zealand tomatoes are mostly ripened on the vine, giving them more flavour even if something is used to speed up the ripening of the crop at the end while still on the vine. Truss or vine tomatoes also come in a range of varieties and sizes and should have a more intense flavour.
Baked Tomato Salad
Homemade custard will make the best trifle. Do go to the effort for this classic version.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 - 1 1/2 hours
12 tomatoes - choose only summer’s best
6 juicy fat cloves garlic, crushed but not peeled
1 teaspoon cracked pepper, I prefer the strength of white but black is fine
1 teaspoon salt, more if using flaky salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil - choose one with a good flavour
1 tablespoon fresh thyme and oregano leaves
Loaf crusty bread
8-10 jambon, prosciutto, pancetta or bacon rashers - whichever you have will be perfect
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and place them into an oven-proof dish that will hold them all snugly - they need to be close like friends. Scatter the garlic on top and then season the dish with salt, pepper and sugar. Drizzle the oil liberally over the tomatoes, it will eventually gather in the base of the dish to make a delicious dressing. Scatter over the herbs
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until the tomatoes are cooked; the skins will have relinquished their firmness, but still be able to hold their precious cargo, now softened and melting on the inside. Cool.
- Cut half a dozen slices off the loaf of bread and tear into small crouton-size pieces. Cook the jambon, prosciutto, pancetta or bacon in a frying pan until the fat runs, and they are somewhat crispy - you will need to add a dash of oil with jambon or prosciutto,. Set aside. Add the croutons to the pan and cook in the residue oil or fat. Scatter the croutons on top of the tomatoes, arrange the jambon or alternatives on top and adorn with fresh herbs of your choice.
- Rarely did we use basil, which was not common in our area unless you grew it yourself; it is a herb more commonly used closer to the Med’s shores. Here herbs were more likely to be thyme, oregano or parsley. This dish can be refrigerated, but to enjoy fully you must serve it at room temperature. Further très chic toppings or garnishes could include olives of any colour, shreds of cheese, here it would be brebis, but parmesan or cheddar are fine and feta or fresh mozzarella would be great too, capers to add a kick for salt lovers; for chilli chasers, pop in grilled spicy chorizo or sliced mild green chillies.
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