Flavour of the month: Make the most of sun-ripened tomatoes

Sweet, red and complex, Skye Gyngell shows how to make the most of a fruit that shouldn't be for all seasons
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Although it is possible to get tomatoes all year round, I would encourage you to enjoy them in their season. The deep fragrance, flavour and texture of properly sun-ripened summer and early autumn fruit is so worth it that it more than makes up for refraining from their use for the remaining nine months of the year.

Although it is possible to get tomatoes all year round, I would encourage you to enjoy them in their season. The deep fragrance, flavour and texture of properly sun-ripened summer and early autumn fruit is so worth it that it more than makes up for refraining from their use for the remaining nine months of the year.

Out-of-season tomatoes tend to have little scent, and taste so bland compared with the sweet explosion of flavour and earthy smell of in-season ones. I always think that tomatoes smell how the colour green would smell if it had a scent.

When ripe, most varieties of tomatoes should be heavy for their size, not too soft and they should just yield to the touch. They should be even in colour whether they are red, yellow, orange, streaky or multicoloured with green blushes ­ unless they are one of the few varieties to ripen to a rich and saturated green.

Do not keep tomatoes in the fridge, it doesn't do them any favours ­ it dumbs down both their perfume and flavour. They are best handled gently and stored at room temperature. Any tomatoes that must be refrigerated due to over-ripeness are best turned into sauces or soups, such as the robust and delicious pappa al pomodoro found in Tuscany.

Out of season, we use large quantities of good-quality, whole, peeled organic tomatoes. Preserved in their own juice with salt (but no dried herbs or garlic), we use the jarred variety in soups, slow-cooked dishes and sauces for pasta.

The first tomatoes of the year come to us from Italy, as English tomatoes don't come into their own until the end of July. Cherry tomatoes are one of my favourites. They are best bought on the vine and have a wonderful grassy smell and the sweetest of all flavours. The large, ribbed-shaped tomatoes, most commonly from Italy, are known as cuore di bue (ox heart), and are best simply sliced served raw in salads or on bruschetta. Plum tomatoes are good for making sauces ­ when ripe they are sweet, with a thicker skin and fewer seeds, their flesh is dense and the resulting sauce is sweet and delicious.

So many ingredients go well with tomatoes ­ olive oil, black olives, basil, anchovies, bread, roasted peppers. Also just served simply, at their ripest with robust olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt ­ they can't be beaten. s

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627. Her book 'A Year in my Kitchen', Quadrille, is the 2007 Guild of Food Writers' Cookery Book of the Year

Salad of cuore di bue, aged Parmesan, courgette flowers and basil

We grow courgettes in the kitchen garden here at Petersham and therefore have access to their lovely, delicate, pale flowers, but you can also get them from any good greengrocer.

Serves 4

2 cuore di bue (ox heart tomatoes or you could just use any ripe tomatoes)
120g/4oz Parmesan
4 courgette flowers
10 basil leaves
35ml/1 1/2 floz extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of half a lemon
Rock salt and freshly ground black pepper

First slice the tomatoes thinly. Slice the Parmesan into uneven slices ­ some thin, some thicker (this makes the salad far more texturally interesting).

Tear the courgette flowers in half gently, using your fingers. Lay the tomatoes on a plate, season with a little rock salt and freshly ground pepper. Place some shaved Parmesan on top and sprinkle over the basil leaves and courgette flowers.

Finally, drizzle over the olive oil and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately ­ this salad needs to be eaten as soon as it has been dressed.

Roasted poussin with tomato and garlicky yoghurt

Serves 4

1 organic free-range chicken or 2 poussin (ask your butcher to spatchcock them)
1tbsp sea-salt
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 medium bunch of marjoram, leaves only
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the yoghurt

300ml/10fl oz thick, Greek-style yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp marjoram leaves
40ml/1 1/2floz extra-virgin olive oil
Sea-salt and ground black pepper
A squeeze or two of lemon juice

For the tomato salad

500g/1lb ripe assorted tomatoes
1 bunch basil
Sea-salt and ground black pepper
1/2tbsp quality red-wine vinegar
40ml/1 1/2 floz extra virgin olive oil

Season the chicken generously all over with salt, cover with a cloth and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

One hour before you are ready to cook the chicken, remove from the fridge, rinse and pat dry. Place on a roasting tray and scatter over the chilli, marjoram and olive oil. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Place the chicken on the middle shelf and roast for 40 minutes (30 minutes for poussin).

Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar, allowing the chicken to rest while you make the yoghurt sauce and the salad.

Place the yoghurt in a bowl. Stir in all the other ingredients starting with the garlic, marjoram and a pinch of salt. Stir well to combine. You can make this a couple of hours ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use.

Slice the tomatoes unevenly, this looks far more interesting and tastes good. Place in a bowl. Add the basil leaves. Season, pour over the vinegar and the olive oil and toss to combine.

Cut the chicken into quarters (halves for the poussin) and spoon over the yoghurt. Divide the tomatoes between the 4 plates and serve with warm bread.

Roasted wild salmon with tomato aioli

Wild salmon is very good at this time of year. This aioli works particularly well with its sweet, rich flesh.

Serves 4

6-8 little tomatoes (cherry or little San Marzano tomatoes)
1kg/2lb wild salmon
Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the aioli

3 organic free-range egg yolks
2 cloves of garlic
The juice of half a lemon
Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper
80ml/3floz extra-virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven until the skin has wrinkled slightly and the juice has begun to burst from the fruit (around 10 to 15 mins). Remove from the oven and cool.

Place the yolks in a blender, add the garlic, lemon juice and a little salt and pepper and the cooled tomatoes. In a slow and steady stream, pour in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. This aioli can be made up to a day in advance.

Season the fish inside and out, and place on a baking tray. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer reveals where to find the best tomatoes...

Home Grown Direct A wonderful range of tomatoes grown in Hampshire. They are currently selling plum, vine, green, golden and heritage varieties. www.homegrowndirect.co.uk

Portobello Food Company

Italian specialists sell a range of delicious Italian tomatoes in jars and tins. www.portobellofood.com, tel: 020 7627 1600

Rod and Ben's Food from the Soil

Organic tomatoes grown on Rod and Ben's 106-acre Bickham Farm in Devon are available for sale via their box scheme (which delivers to Exeter, Exmouth, Plymouth and Bristol), from local shops and by mail order elsewhere. Tomatoes currently available are: red cherry, tigerella and yellow brandy wine.

Daylesford Organic Farmshop

Sixteen varieties of tomatoes are organically grown on this Gloucestershire farm. www.daylesfordorganic.com

Audley End Organic Kitchen Garden

Victorian varieties are available from the estate's farm shop and via local box schemes. www.gard enorganic.org.uk

Big Barn

Go to www.bigbarn.co.uk, a service which enables you to find producers in your area.