I love that title The Big Red Book of Tomatoes. Comforting and very reminiscent of a Christmas Annual – one of those bumper volumes that constituted a heavy lump at the bottom of the pillow-case on Christmas morning. It does indeed have an old-fashioned and trusty air about it.
It’s that time of year when we are hoping for a crop of delicious and glowing tomatoes warm from the vine. Perhaps this regrettably sunless summer has left more than a few of us with more than a few green and bullet-like orbs that stand little chance of changing hue.
Tomatoes are healthy and available all year round. Cast away prejudices that you might hold against tinned toms. They are honestly a much better bet in the winter than those pale imported horrors on offer in the supermarket. A good quality tomato in a can will have been picked at its peak of ripeness.
Lindsey Bareham has presented a 400-recipe tome containing what seems like every conceivable tom-based dish. I fancy myself a dab-hand at the stove but even I could not envisage such a number of appropriate recipes, but here they are and they make a fine collection from every ethnic origin.
We tend to think of the tomato as being the epitome of the healthy Mediterranean diet, even though they are indigenous to the Americas. It is a testament to the versatility of this fruit/vegetable that it has been embraced so enthusiastically. Even the fussiest of eaters will tuck into a tomato sauce-laden pizza or garnish almost any meal with a shake or two of ketchup – and, yes, I do believe it constitutes one of your five a day.
There are a creditable number of pasta recipes here as one would expect but I have been drawn to some other dishes that are a bit less ubiquitous. Tomates à la Provençale do indeed have that flavour of the Mediterranean. A simple yet versatile dish that will be a marvellous side for everything from a traditional roast to a summer barbecue.
English Muffins with tinned tomatoes and poached eggs is a quick and comforting dish that will be welcomed at any time of the day. A sustaining and vibrant breakfast plateful, and the sauce can be made in advance so all that’s needed is a few moments of poaching and toasting.
Sauce Aurore is new to me but well worth trying. It’s a combination of classic béchamel and a tomato coulis. It’s most often found coating boiled eggs and then being browned under the grill. It would be a delight napped over white fish, though, or perhaps even prawns. A very stylish sauce to have up one’s chef’s jacket sleeve.
The Big Red Book of Tomatoes is a must for any cottage gardener. There are recipes here to enable the green-fingered to make good use of a glut of green tomatoes as well as those red and luscious fruits of high summer.
The Big Red Book of Tomatoes
Author: Lindsey Bareham
Published by: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018