Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Diary of my Day - in Tomato Time

Yesterday my day began with tomatoes, and ended with tomatoes. It also had a tomatoey middle.

Let me explain.

Breakfast is a bit of a challenge in my house. My son is always absolutely starving, and my daughter is what you might call picky. I barely eat myself between negotiating what everyone will eat and serves of toast, milk, juice, different spreads, picking bits of jammy toast from the floor etc.

Having run the gamut of cinnamon on toast, Nutella on toast, Vegemite on toast and just dry toast, I have managed to introduce my daughter to tomato on toast, one of my favourite snacks ever. I slice tomatoes, place them neatly on a piece of grainy toast which has been lightly buttered and drizzle with olive oil and Maldon salt and pepper. I love the contrast between the warm toast and the salty cold tomato. And guess what? She likes it too (minus the butter of course because she doesn't like butter).

Unfortunately tomatoes are not really in season at the moment. The choice yesterday was tiny cherry tomatoes. And have you ever tried to slice a slippery cherry tomato as opposed to just chopping it willy nilly? You need a really sharp knife and concentration which I do not have at that early hour. After I bandaided my cut finger, I discovered that the slices were so tiny that nine of them fitted on the slice of toast. And then, because my daughter also likes it this way, I cut the toast into nine (yes, nine - 3 x 3) tiny little toasty squares so that there was one piece of tomato on each section. Then I carefully drizzled with olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of salt. And it was all scoffed down in 30 seconds flat, confirming my view that persuading a child to eat often comes down to presentation.

And if that doesn't convince you that I am crazy, nothing will.

The middle of my day was a lunchtime meeting at work. We rotate the catering, and it is rarely inspired. Yesterday was tomato and lentil soup with a heavy hand in pepper, and a so called pumpkin soup which tasted like a thick tomato soup. We all complain about the food. It gives us a sense of team solidarity, which I think you need to get through the tough times. (Side note - on good days we get the lunchboxes from our local which happens to be one of the best restaurants in Australia - Vue de Monde - fantastic and really good value).

My day ended with tomatoes because last night I made pasta with my favourite tomato sauce which, and I know this is a big call, is the best tomato sauce for pasta ever (in the history of the world).

I know it's wrong and in breach of anti-dumping laws but one of the only things I like about supermarkets in Australia is the profusion of very cheap tinned Italian tomatoes. They bring a taste of summer to the darkest day, and I am very sorry to the local producers - your fresh tomatoes are bliss but your tinned are not a patch on those produced by Italia.

I have been engaged on a search for the best tomato sauce for pasta for many years. This is because:

1. Monday night is always pasta night. Except when the routine seems unbearable and I change my mind about this. Then it becomes noodle night.

2. I really need a quick brainless pasta recipe I can cook which will be amazing and foolproof for those emergencies.

3. I feel that many tinned tomatoes (and indeed, regular real round tomatoes) do not often have the best flavour. The challenge therefore is to maximise the tomatoeyness and minimise the tinny or watery flavour you can get.

About 3 years ago I struck gold. I have to thank Marcella Hazan for this. I have previously mentioned how her books are falling apart at the seams through use. Her Classic Italian Cookbook actually has 4 different tomato sauce recipes. The one below is the one I love. It produces a rich deep dense flavour and I highly recommend it.


One tin of Italian tomatoes (450g)
One onion peeled and sliced in half crossways.
About 50-75 g of good quality unsalted butter depending on how naughty you feel.
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper


Put all ingredients into a heavy based saucepan. Once the butter has melted stir to incorporate. Cook at gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Check and stir occassionally. The sauce should be reduced but not too gluggy. Remove onion bits before serving.

Serve with boxed dry pasta (cooked!) - I usually use spaghettini. How easy is that? Make it now!

Images (1) Real Simple (2) Delia Smith (3) Martha Stewart


The Blushing Hostess said...

Beautifully done esspecially because tomatoes are my favorite food part of this glorious season!

Kiki said...

Oooh nice, it's almost lunchtime here too!!!

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe as I would usually add olive oil so the butter sounds like a wonderful addition.

(My word verification today is 'vence' - only one letter short of Venice!!)

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Hi Jane,
Your Blog is lovely. I have the same problem with my picky daughter and she doesn't like butter in sandwiches or toast but likes to eat butter plain. I don't understand! I saw a show on A Current Affair (I think or something similar) and it was on Italian canned tomatoes which I always used to buy. Anyway the show claimed that a lot of the Italian tomatoes were really imports from China and grown in manure and contained a lot of bacteria! That really turned me off buying them after that!
I do love the name of your Blog and it makes me think of my favourite book at the moment, Velvet Pears by Susan Southam. xx

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