Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Best Roasted Tomatoes start with two Skye Gyngell tricks*

Trick 1. Roasting tomatoes require roominess

Trick 2. Roast tomatoes dry (that is, without any oil)

*Caveat for all diligent recipe followers: not all advice from cooks should be followed to the letter. When I first started working in Skye’s kitchen (and being way too eager to please) I took her on her word when she said ‘green vegetables should be boiled in water as salty as the sea’- advice she also writes in her first cookbook. It was probably my second day in her kitchen and man, did I wish I could backspace on time when she tasted a mouthful of my perfectly-tender-and-so-salty-you-can’t-even-swallow chard! With five minutes until the start of service, I wasn’t being celebrated for my editorial input. Even my fellow cooks weren’t laughing at me. This little incident did, however, give me the opportunity to learn yet another Skye trick: if you’ve accidently oversalted something, try a squeeze of lemon, it may just tame your overzealousness.

Not this time.

With this caveat in place, I’ve also revised Skye’s proportion advice for seasoning tomatoes before they roast. She suggests equal quantities of sugar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I use equal quantities of sea salt and sugar but only a quarter the quantity of black pepper. Sprinkle this mixture all over the halved tomatoes and put them in the middle of a 160 C oven.

As I speak the tomatoes are reducing still, and by their smell, I’d say they’re just about where I’d like them to be. How much you roast your tomatoes is up to you. I usually stop when they look something like this:

Once they’re out of the oven, as quickly as humanly possible remove them from their syrupy spots on the tray and crowd them into a dish. This is important because in a matter of half minutes, those syrupy spots will turn to glue, fixing the skins of the tomatoes onto the tray.

Looking at these caramelized juices, I remember how rinsing flavour down the sink leaves me feeling nihilistic. If you're the same, try gently dissolving them, like you would other roasting juices. Place the pan directly on the stove and with a very little water or stock, gently rub the pan with a wooden spoon until the caramel gives way and dissolves again. Let any excess liquid simmer away and then pour this syrup back onto your tomatoes.

Use the tomatoes straight away, in a salad with lentils, roasted cauliflower and Persian feta, perhaps. Or marinate them overnight. Drizzle them with olive oil, some freshly chopped or torn herbs, maybe a few thin slices of garlic and eat them smashed into your toast tomorrow morning.


  1. yum - gonna have to try that! we need a better baking tray - what's your pref ange? (ps we promise to try harder to catch up when yer in town next)

  2. Heh bhu, only just saw your post! I thought I'd get notified or something... anyway, sorry about that. now, on baking trays- I reckon an unwarping, heavy tray is a blessing. I hate those thin dudes that decide to warp when they get hot. I used to love a good teflon surface, but I hear from some in the know people that teflon's not so good for us? I want to find out more about this. Are there other non-stick alternatives? I don't know either. You could always put down a bit of al foil, but then you can't scrape up the lovely left over caramel... hmmm. I don't feel like I'm being very helpful! heavy. that's my only definite must so far...

  3. yeh, teflon no good - i reckon we end up with bellies lined with the stuff - we are just using white ceramic roasting dishes @ the moment so i'll stick with them

    hey just got some great tomatoes @ northey st - gonna roast 'em like you and skye - i'll let you know how they go

  4. heh, lucky you with the tomatoes! No good tomatoes here for a fair few months now...

  5. ok, gave it a shot and they're fucking YUM! i think the spices (salt esp) add a real depth to the final flavour - i added oil too tho (didn't read your tips at the top!) so next time no oil

    but yeh, a great way to do toms

  6. Glad you liked them! on the oil: it just makes them 'sweat' a bit more than roasting them dry. sort of the same effect as packing them too close together on the tray.