Best from June to late September

In the 1990s many of us turned to preserved tomatoes to get the full Mediterranean flavour: first to sun-dried tomatoes, which are tomatoes halved, salted and left to dry in the Italian sun, then to the softer mi-cuit (literally, half-cooked) tomatoes.

Squidgy and not as chewy as those that are totally dried, mi-cuit tomatoes are ready to use but have a similar concentration of flavour to sun-dried. Another option is to use tinned tomatoes.

Chopped or whole, their flavour is superior to fresh in cooking during the winter months provided, of course, they are Italian, as these are way and above the best.

However, it takes the beauty of a lusciously ripe fresh tomato grown in the summer sun to remind us what this ubiquitous fruit, used as a vegetable, is really all about. A perfect tomato is not only full of flavour and juice, but also has a subtle, savoury scent.

With tiny cherry tomatoes and deep-red, vine-ripened varieties becoming more common, supplies have improved recently; and old favourites like Jersey Toms and the Gardener's Delight variety are still a delight in our home-grown season.

To skin or not to skin? A proper, ripe tomato is perfect to nibble with the skin on. An unskinned tomato is best for most salads, too, and certainly for sandwiches.

However, the Italians, one of the top tomato-growing nations and great experts on the subject of tomato sauce, do not like to see tomato skin in cooked dishes. If you want to follow their example, here is how to divest a tomato of its skin with a minimum of fuss: put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover them completely. Leave them for exactly 1 minute, or, if the tomatoes are small, 15-30 seconds, before draining and slipping off their skins (protect your hands with a cloth if they are too hot).  You can see how easy it is in this short video by clicking on the link below.

How to skin and de-seed a tomato




Related Recipes
Spanish Tomato Bread Serves 2

Spanish Tomato Bread

Lovely on its own served as a starter or divided into small pieces to serve with drinks

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil Serves 4-6

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil

It's hard to believe that something so simple can be so wonderful

Bloody Mary Soup Serves 2

Bloody Mary Soup

A spicy low-fat soup that has a lovely kick of Tabasco and balsamic to complement the tomatoes. You can even add a shot of vodka if you've a mind to!

Sauteed Spiced Vegetables with Lentils Serves 1

Sauteed Spiced Vegetables with Lentils

A simple and cheap vegetarian recipe for one that's certainly full of flavour! Adapt it to suit other vegetables if you prefer and serve it with filling and nutritious brown rice.

Chicken and Chick Peas Serves 4

Chicken and Chick Peas

Adding chick peas to this wintry chicken casserole allows you to feed four people very well for very little money without sacrificing flavour and nutritious value in the process.

Baked Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Serves 4-5

Baked Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

This inexpensive dish is a version of the famous Greek dolmades or stuffed vine leaves, given an English twist with minced beef but also true to the Mediterranean with the inclusion of cinnamon, marjoram and rice.

Macaroni au Gratin Serves 3

Macaroni au Gratin

Classic macaroni cheese, with the addition of bacon and mushrooms, for winter comfort food that's cheap to make and a real pleasure to eat.

Poulet a la Catalane Serves 6

Poulet a la Catalane

This frugal recipe includes aubergines, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes so will be cheapest to make in early autumn when these ingredients are in season: enjoy!

Mixed Vegetable Salad a la Grecque Serves 12

Mixed Vegetable Salad a la Grecque

A great way to add lots of vegetables and pulses to a buffet spread - and so easy you can make it well in advance.

Spaghetti with Tuna and Olives Serves 3

Spaghetti with Tuna and Olives

Easy and nutritious, this is the sort of recipe that every student should have up his or her sleeve as it costs very little but tastes sensational and uses storecupboard ingredients - perfect for when you haven't time to go shopping.




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