We have had tomatoes in the shops all through winter, but a local glut has enabled me to get some beautifully ripe, almost on the turn, tomatoes that are perfect for making sauces and using in place of tinned tomatoes. Although economically the fresh has overtaken the tinned in price, there is still something really satisfying about using fresh ingredients – the finished dish always has superior taste.
I halved the tomatoes (15 large) and put them in a heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid with a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil (olive or oil of your choice may also be used) and let them simmer on low heat for about an hour. I then strained the resultant pulp through a sieve with a wooden spoon and threw away the leftover cup of seeds and skins in the compost. The result was a rather thin soup with no flavourings.
I then reduced this over medium heat until about 2/3 down. Meanwhile, I sautéed 2 cloves crushed garlic and a 5-inch stick of celery (strings removed) in a tablespoon of butter. Once softened, I added this to the soup, together with two sachets of high quality liquid chicken stock and a good grinding of Himalayan rock salt. A handful of basil leaves pounded with ½ cup of parmesan was then thrown into the mix and allowed to develop a flavour on low heat for 20 minutes. 2 teaspoons of light brown sugar softened the acidity.
Served with plenty of parmesan sprinkled on top, it was a surprisingly delicious and light appetiser!