How about these for tomatoes? Each one is about 14 centimetres in diameter and weighs around a kilo. None of your shop-bought imitations – perfectly symmetrical, dosed to the pips with noxious substances and tasting like cotton wool. And just in case you don’t believe me about the size…
…here’s another photo with one of the offending supermarket variety next to the monster version. They remind me of novelist and fellow blogger Deborah Lawrenson’s harem cushion tomatoes, except that I think these have even more excrescences.
They come from our friend Michel. He loves his garden to the point of obsession. He has rare varieties of trees and shrubs and is constantly re-jigging sections of it. He gardens on alluvial silt down by the River Aveyron so he can grow almost anything. Not content with just one variety of tomato, he has several. As well as these mammoths, he also grows juicy pillar-box red cherry tomatoes, deliciously sweet green ones and slightly larger ones with a hue somewhere between aubergine and grape.
He and Brigitte invited us for dinner the other evening. When we arrived, Michel threw up his hands and said, ‘Cette année, c’est la catastrophe!’ What could be the problem? He shook his head. It was a glut of tomatoes and other fruit – for, as we were taught in school biology lessons, tomatoes are botanically fruits; only I can’t remember why.
Tomatoes featured in every course, except the dessert. They provided bowls of tiny tomatoes with the apéritifs, the starter was tomatoes stuffed with salmon mayonnaise and a tomato and aubergine bake accompanied the grillades. Not that we were complaining: I love tomatoes and research shows they can protect against certain cancers.
Tomatoes don’t do well every year in our region. This isn’t Provence. We are in the foothills of the Massif Central and the sunshine quotient is variable. Michel assures us, though, that this has been a very good year. I was surprised, since July was distinctly gloomy.
We don’t have a vegetable garden, or potager. It’s too much like hard work in our unforgiving, stony soil. Instead, we benefit from our friends’ gluts and largesse. So we left their house with groaning carrier bags of tomatoes and pears.
But what do you do with tomatoes this size? Each one is enough for about six people. Here’s my solution, combining the tomatoes with courgettes in one of my favourite soups. There’s likely to be a glut of both at this time of year. And it can be served hot or cold.
Tomato and courgette soup
Butter or olive oil for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
2kg ripe tomatoes (i.e. just two of Michel’s monsters)
1 kg courgettes, thinly sliced
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
- Fry onion in butter/oil until soft but not browned.
- Add courgettes and fry gently for a further few minutes.
- Core tomatoes with an apple corer and remove the skin by placing them in a large bowl and covering for one minute with boiling water. Drain and refresh. The skins should slip off easily.
- If you want a smooth soup, remove and discard tomato seeds. If you prefer a grainier texture, leave them in. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the saucepan. Cook for a further two minutes.
- Add stock and bring to the boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Blend soup to a purée. Pass through a sieve as well if you want.
If serving hot, add some grated emmental or gruyère to each bowl and/or a few croûtons. If serving cold, drizzle over a basil purée made by blending a good handful of basil leaves with olive oil.
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