19th June 2020

Featured / Food / George Blower

Vegan by Default: Three Delicious Ways to Elevate the Humble Tomato by George Blower

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GGeorge believes that sourcing incredible, seasonal food from local producers, cooking it inventively and pairing it well, is how we can all get on board with a more plant-based diet.

As I’m sure most of you will agree, eating a tomato is one of Summer’s greatest pleasures. Sliced, sprinkled with a little sea salt and drizzled in good oil, it really is a taste of the sun. It’s also an example of championing a seasonal ingredient, where buying and eating it out of season doesn’t taste anywhere near as good. Much like rhubarb and asparagus which we’ve just waved goodbye too, we’re now welcoming -with open arms- tomatoes, in all their forms.

They’ve already begun hitting our shelves from the sunny climes of the Isle of Wight. Soon they’ll also be filling our greenhouses, allotments, hanging baskets and more as we head into summer. And with thanks to a growing number of farmers and chefs growing and cooking with new hybrids or re-introducing old heritage varieties, we’re awash with a patchwork of colours, shapes and sizes, let alone tastes. We’ve beef tomatoes, their meaty texture making them great for stuffing with herbed grains and crumbly, piquant cheese. Adorning a plate of freshly torn mozzarella and basil with vine tomatoes of yellows and reds, their bright, tart qualities standing up to the pungent herb. Or the old school cherry tomato, simply eaten whole and raw, devouring a bunch like one would a packet of sweets.

What I want to show you however are three low-effort methods of totally transforming the taste and texture of tomatoes. These are techniques that we should be employing now, and using as we would roasting, grilling or frying for an almost immediate result. Rather than wait until the end of summer when gluts of tomatoes line our windowsills, defaulting to blitzing them together, masking their individual qualities to make a tomato sauce destined for the freezer, we can plan ahead and unearth new tastes and textures with relatively little effort and next to no time.

 

Brined Tomatoes

In my last article, I covered how to lacto-ferment. An age-old technique becoming more prevalent in restaurants seeking out new flavours, and a fantastic way to preserve foods too. Tomatoes are a fantastic ingredient to use this technique on. In fact, The Noma Guide to Fermentation (a great book if you want to really geek out) says it’s all about the tomato water, rather than the tomatoes themselves.

 

Brining and lacto-fermenting are largely the same thing. They both involve submerging fruits or vegetables in a salt-based brine to eliminate oxygen. However, what differentiates them is the time they’re in that salty solution, and how and where they’re stored. When brining, the purpose is to evenly season an ingredient, rather than ferment it. As such, it’s placed in the fridge to halt any fermentation, and instead allow the salt to permeate the surface of the ingredient. Brining really transforms tomatoes into an even tastier morsel. The salt taking them from a short, sharp burst of flavour, into a lingering, complex and umami driven one.

Find the recipe for Brined Tomatoes here.

Confit Tomatoes

To confit is to simply cook in fat at a low temperature, over a long period of time. This is a technique that works well with so many things, confit garlic being one of my favourite condiments ever! I’ve found that most confit veggies are perfect smeared over sourdough toast or bruschetta or added to a pasta dish to take it to a new level.

Find the recipe for Confit Tomatoes here.

Pickled Tomatoes

The other summer glut of tomatoes tends to be the green, unripe ones. Whether that’s because you’ve picked them before going away on holiday to save coming back to rotten tomatoes lining the garden floors, or because nature didn’t play the game with you this year. This recipe can be used for both ripe and green tomatoes, but I find it works best with the green kind and is a pleasant change from the common green tomato chutney or deep South version of frying in batter.

Find the recipe for Pickled Tomatoes here.

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George Blower
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Leith-trained George Blower started his culinary career learning the ropes from eco-chef Tom Hunt with seasonal, minimal waste cuisine at Poco. Then, after some time with Nuno Mendes at Taberna Do Mercado and Origin Coffee, George created his ever-growing supper club, Blower’s Place, offering a seven-course vegan-by-default tasting menu for 30 guests roughly every 8 weeks. Alongside founding Blower's Place, George is also a chef at award-winning zero waste restaurant, Silo, in Hackney Wick.

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