Heinz is responsible for our love of tomatoes in the western world, or at least those parts of the western world where tomatoes don't grow easily. A person's palate is shaped in his or her childhood and pretty much every child in the UK tasted Heinz tomato soup and ketchup.
I adore Heinz tomato soup. There is no better tinned soup in the world, in fact it might just be the only soup from a tin that tastes good.
And tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients. They are colourful, easy and flavoursome, although at times I wonder if they are grown more for shipping than eating nowadays. Some tomatoes you pick up lack any discernible taste so you need to pick them carefully; they need to be fresh, without any wrinkly skin and be firm to the touch. Have a quick sniff of them too before you buy them - if your senses aren't aroused then put them back.
You need no technical ability at all to get the best out of a tomato. Take a tomato salad for example: sliced tomatoes, chopped shallots, some basil, balsamic vinegar (aged of course), some olive oil and sea salt - delicious!
The funny thing about tomatoes though is that they taste more like tomatoes when they are cooked, which is how I get the full flavour out of them. You will see that I roast them first in the tomato soup recipe I have included here.
Cooked tomatoes are great for so many things. A fresh tomato sauce is one of the most multipurpose things you can make and also one of the easiest. You simply sweat some shallots in olive oil, add white wine vinegar and reduce. Then add diced tomatoes and tomato juice and purée to create the best consistency for whatever you are cooking. I made sardines on toast with fresh tomato sauce for my two boys a few weeks ago after we'd all been out for a long, bracing walk in the countryside. Perfect fodder, easy to prepare and full of flavour and vitamins.
The tomato is one of cooking's most versatile ingredients. You can even make it refined, as in the soup recipe here. But if you can't be bothered with that, just open a can of Heinz tomato soup and relive your childhood.
Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill in Abu Dhabi is offering a sumptuous three-course meal every Sunday from 7pm-midnight for Dh275. For more information or to make a reservation, call 02 654 3238 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Make it yourself
Roasted Tomato Soup
20 vine-ripened tomatoes (quartered)
400g white onions (small dice)
200g carrots (small dice)
200g celery (small dice)
100ml olive oil
200ml double cream
1.5l vegetable stock
6-8 roasted garlic cloves
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
METHOD 1. Toss the quartered tomatoes, thyme and rosemary with half of the olive oil and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast at 200°C in an oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes have started to brown.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté the onions, carrots and celery with remaining olive oil in a large pot.
3. Remove the large bunches of herbs from the roasting tray. Scrape the roasted tomatoes and juices into the pot with the vegetables.
4. On a cutting board mash the roasted garlic with the back of a heavy knife.
5. Add the vegetable stock and roasted garlic paste and let simmer for 25 minutes.
6. Carefully blend the soup with a bar blender or emersion circulator. Strain the soup through a fine strainer.
7. Place the soup back in a pot and stir in the cream.
8. If the soup is too thick, add additional vegetable stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Baguette (cut into 15-20 cubes)
50ml olive oil
1 tbsp chopped thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
METHOD 1. Toss the bread cubes with olive oil, thyme and cayenne pepper.
2. Bake the croutons at 160C until they are crisp.