Episode 83 - Show Notes & Advice

Grow, cook, eat, arrange podcast 83
Grow, cook, eat, arrange podcast - 83

episode 83 | show notes & advice

Episode description

Now in peak tomato season, you may be wondering what else you could be doing with the fruits of your labour once harvested. In this week’s episode, Sarah talks to Claire Thomson, professional chef and cookery writer, about their mutual passion for the humble tomato. From a brief history of this versatile fruit - of which there are no less than 10,000 varieties, to a multitude of ways to cook with them - including some of the recipes featured in Claire’s latest book: Tomato: 80 Recipes Celebrating the Extraordinary Tomato. It’s not often we come across a recipe book focusing entirely on one fruit or vegetable and the many things you can do with it - from salads to curries, chutneys to puddings, so when we do, at the right time of year, and on a subject Sarah is passionate about, it’s definitely one for this podcast.


In this episode, discover .....

  • A brief history of the humble tomato
  • How Claire’s love of travel led her to cooking professionally
  • Why Claire chose to write a recipe book entirely about tomatoes
  • The ‘burning of the tomato’ (instead of the aubergine or pepper) for a delicious Burnt Tomato Salsa recipe
  • The Frying Pan Pizza
  • Sarah’s pick of recipes from Claire’s book: Tomato
Tomato 'Indigo Rose'
Tomato 'Indigo Rose'
Tomato 'Micro Cherry'
Tomato 'Micro Cherry'
Tomato 'Chocolate Cherry'
Tomato 'Chocolate Cherry'

Episode 83 advice sheet

Sarah and Claire share a love of the humble tomato, which makes it into each of their top three passions. For Sarah, the tomato joins her tulip and dahlia obsession; while for Claire the tomato is up there with her other top ingredients of lemons and the all-important olive oil.


Claire’s background

Having studied journalism at university, Claire had her heart set on travelling, perhaps in part due to growing up in Zimbabwe and other countries outside of the UK. On graduation, she set off around the world and spent much of her twenties cooking professionally in restaurants around Australia, Thailand and China. She loved the excitement and machismo of the professional kitchen and quickly got the bug for cooking. A few years on and as children came along, Claire decided to turn her hand to writing about what she was cooking. “We live in an age where we cook in 30 minutes and with only five ingredients, and while that’s useful for home and family life, sometimes it’s really nice to take a recipe and know the history of it and why you make it”, which is what Claire loves to discover. Her editor, Sarah Lavelle, who has been with Claire right from the start, is also her publisher at Quadrille. Claire recalls writing her first book while sitting in a café and breastfeeding her 10-week-old baby. Now, almost 10 years on, Claire has seven books to her name and is a professional chef and author.



Why Tomatoes?

Besides being a favourite ingredient, Claire has spent the last three years working with the Isle of Wight Tomato Farm. They send her their tomatoes and Claire comes up with recipes for them. A natural synergy soon emerged, and it made sense to do a book solely on tomatoes. There are 80 recipes in total, of which roughly two thirds are using fresh tomatoes and a third with tinned or stored tomatoes, although Claire admits she could have written double that amount, as tomatoes are so incredibly versatile. “When you look at the journey of where they started in the world and where they’ve gone, there’s just a gallimaufry of cuisines and cooking ( . . . ) with tomatoes.”


A brief history of Tomatoes

We don’t consider a tomato a foreign fruit, however it actually originates from South America and was brought to Europe with the Spanish invasion. From there it was taken into Northern Africa, India and beyond, to where we are today, with every country and cuisine having adopted it as their own. “Whilst we can get stuck in that mozzarella, tomato, basil mindset, if we look at where tomatoes are used in the world, the scope for cookery is insane.”


Sarah’s picks from Claire’s book (all recipes included at the end of the podcast notes)

Butter Chicken

Claire describes this as a lovely creamy tomato-based curry, and very rich. As with many of her recipes, Claire likes to draw on inspiration from her extensive travels, though feels it’s important to remain reverential to the origins of your cooking and to acknowledge the people who taught you those recipes.


Pizza in a frying pan

Already a huge pizza fan, Sarah has always enjoyed her proper wood-fired pizza oven at home, especially the slightly ceremonial aspect of lighting it, but loves the idea of doing a pizza in a frying pan, which Claire says is actually very easy to do. The frying pan pizzas came about from having to live without a kitchen in a temporary house move during the pandemic. “The kids kept asking for pizzas and we found that frying pan pizzas are just as good as those done in the oven. They puff up and have that bubbly, chewy texture.” You can either have them without cheese, add parmesan over the top once cooked, or briefly pop them under the grill to melt some cheese over the top.


Roasted Tomato Falafels

For a more Middle Eastern use of the tomato, the roasted tomato falafels are great and the addition of the tomato into the falafel mix, makes them really moist and juicy and negates the ‘dry rubble’ that sometimes passes as falafels.


Preserved tomatoes

Tomato was never intended to be a book just for the summer using only fresh tomatoes, but a collection of recipes to take you through the seasons, including cooking with preserved tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, and pureed tomatoes. Claire has several recipes for tomato chutneys and ketchups at the beginning of the book, as well as tomato and chilli jams and various other condiments you can make with tomatoes – all great to do if you have a glut or are wanting to store them away.  

“Tomato puree has often been looked upon as an inferior ingredient, but good tomato puree is such an asset to have in your store cupboard and the good stuff should taste of sundried tomatoes. It’s like distilled tomatoes – super strong and cheap to buy and what they deliver in flavour is brilliant.”

Sarah recalls visiting an Italian farmhouse kitchen and the process they used to bottle the whole harvest. They had a massive cauldron on the fire, and it was actually a Ukrainian cook who took out the tomatoes and wrapped them in jerseys and blankets to allow them to cool really slowly, which apparently makes them much longer storing.


Burnt Tomato Salsa

Having heard of the ‘burning of the aubergine’, from Ottolenghi and Honey & Co. and the ‘burning of the pepper’, Sarah loves the idea of the ‘burnt tomato’.

Claire: This salsa is a really punchy flavoursome condiment to serve alongside Mexican cuisine – with tacos etc. The burnt tomato gives a beautiful texture, and by blistering and blackening the skins, they combust within themselves which really ramps up and harnesses the flavour. Once blackened, chop them up with lots of lime (using the skins) and add blackened garlic, red onion and fresh coriander. Tomatoes have everything, from acidity to sweetness, and carry salt beautifully to bring out the umami flavour. Mexican cuisine is so good for using all these flavours in tandem.


Grilled sardines with grated tomato

Sarah: Having spent considerable time in Greece, and cooked with many Greeks, mainly women, Sarah finds they always grate their tomatoes, leaving the skin on, which gives them a different flavour as well as texture.

Claire: The grating of the tomato breaks down all the seed and membrane to give it a delicate viscous texture suited to something like a barbecued sardine. The play of flavours is nice on the palate, with the mix of the char of the grilled sardines, the texture of the tomato, and the addition of some grated ginger gives a bit of heat and freshness.


Claire’s favourite tomato varieties

Tinned - theSan Marzano tomato, as they have a beautiful, dense flesh that can carry more flavour.

Fresh - in the tomato season as we are now, on a hot day, no tomato isn’t a good tomato, however the shape and size will determine how to cook with them. For example, a big beef tomato, thinly sliced makes a lovely tomato carpaccio, with an olive tapenade and rocket served as a salad. Whatever tomato comes my way, will tell me what I’m going to do with it – like giving a cherry tomato a tiny burst of heat that just combusts them and make them extra juicy and flavoursome.


Healthy tomatoes

Sarah has been trialling quite a few of the red and black tomato varieties at Perch Hill. The red pigment is from the lycopene and the black is from anthocyanin - packed full of antioxidants - also present in blueberries and other purple fruits and veg. Two wonderful red and black varieties are:

·      ‘Black Krim’ from the Crimea

·      ‘Indigo Rose’ a similar colouring to Black Krim


Claire admits she hasn’t grown any herself, besides the cherry tomatoes the family have growing in pots in the garden, however she did comeacross a delicious looking Bull’s Heart tomato (black and red stripe), through a heritage seed grower on Instagram. She’s looking forward to installing the greenhouse at their new house for growing a wider range of varieties especially as tomatoes like:

·      heat

·      time on the vine

·      a struggle for water at the end (i.e. don’t overwater)


Behind the lens of Tomato - Sam Folan

Sam is a genius behind the camera lens who’s done three of Claire’s books. Claire has no

pretentions with her food and likes to shoot it as it is (no hairspray for glossy effects!), and more importantly, all the food made in the shooting of a cookbook is eaten.


Claire’s top recipe recommendation from Tomato

The Ricotta and mustard bread-and-butter pudding with roasted cherry tomatoes, which is essentially a bread-and-butter pudding slathered with Dijon mustard and ricotta and then roasted hard with lots of cherry tomatoes. It comes out as a lovely, bubbling bread-and-butter pudding but savoury - although you might need a lie down after you’ve eaten it.



Claire Thomson’s latest book: Tomato: 80 Recipes Celebrating the Extraordinary Tomato

Instagram: 5oclockapron



For all the recipes mentioned in the podcast, Claire's new book Tomato can be purchased online

Burnt Tomato Salsa


  • 600g (1lb 5oz) tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 1 red onion, quartered and peeled (stalk left intact)
  • ½ small bunch of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • 1–2 limes (depending on juiciness)
  • 1 dried arbol or pequin chilli, or another medium–hot dried chilli (or fresh red or green chilli, if you prefer)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


MAKES 800G (1LB 12OZ)


Burning the tomatoes, onions, chilli and whole garlic cloves with their skin on in a dry pan or on a grill or barbecue does two things in the making of this salsa. First, the heat distorts the skin and flesh, rendering all four ingredients soft enough to roughly peel, then chop as one mass, all seasoned with lime and a good amount of salt. Second, by heating the ingredients and blistering the skin, ideally, you’re looking to burn and blacken parts of the flesh of each, lending deeply smoky notes to the flesh within. Pair with Mexican food, including tacos, quesadillas and burritos, or enjoy as part of a larger meal such as barbacoa or any long, slow-cooked South American dishes.


1. Grill the whole tomatoes, garlic and quartered onions over a high heat in a dry pan for about 10 minutes, turning every now and then, until blistered, well charred and blackened in places. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

2. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and garlic.

3. Finely chop the charred vegetables together and season with salt and pepper, then add the coriander (cilantro), along with plenty of lime juice, to taste.

4. Finely slice or chop the dried chilli and add that to the salsa, mixing well. (If using fresh chillies, you can char these along with the other ingredients and remove the skin when cool to chop.) The salsa will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, but it’s best eaten on the day you make it.


Frying Pan Pizza with Tomato, Oregano and Chilli Flakes


For the dough


500g (1lb 2oz) ‘00’ flour, or use plain (all-purpose) flour, plus more to roll

325ml (11fl oz) warm water

1½ teaspoons or 7g (1/6oz) fast-action dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt


For the topping


olive oil, for frying

1 x 400g (14oz) can of plum tomatoes, blended

1 tablespoon dried oregano (or use chopped fresh leaves, if you like)

4 garlic cloves, peeled and kept whole but bashed a little

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan, grated (shredded), to serve (optional)




Honestly a brilliant method to cook pizza. You do get a different kind of crust when you fry a pizza compared with baking one – different but just as good. It puffs in the pan, the dough blistering in patches and turning chewy from the oil. I’ve opted not to include any mozzarella, finding that if you do, you then need to put the grill (broiler) or oven on to melt the cheese enough. I want you to just use a frying pan, so this is pizza in the style of a marinara, or pizza rossa, a traditional Neapolitan pizza offering using just tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and oregano. For the cheese hit, I’ve then opted to simply scatter the surface of the cooked pizza with freshly grated Parmesan, but you can opt to remain cheeseless.


1. Mix the flour, water and yeast together in a bowl to form a wet dough, then add the salt and put the dough to one side for 5 minutes.

2. Process the dough in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, kneading for 3–5 minutes, until smooth and cohesive (or do this by hand, if you like). Put to one side somewhere warm to rise for 1–2 hours, until not quite doubled in size.

3. Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a small saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, oregano and garlic, season well with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes to thicken slightly and for the flavours to meld. Remove the garlic cloves from the tomato sauce, take the pan off the heat and put it to one side. This should be enough sauce for 4 pizzas.

4. Divide the risen dough equally into 4 balls and, on a lightly floured surface, roll or pull the dough into shape – about a 20cm (8in) disk, or to fit the size of your frying pan. Allow for each pizza to have a slightly bigger lip around the edge. 

5. Get the frying pan hot over a high heat. Add a big splash of olive oil (enough to cover the base of the frying pan) and, using tongs, gently lay one of the pizza disks into the pan, lowering it away from you, so you don’t splash yourself with any of the hot oil.

6. Use the kitchen tongs to press the centre of the dough down as it bubbles up and away from the pan. Cook for about 1–1½ minutes on the first side, until golden brown in patches and bubbly on the surface. Use the tongs to carefully flip the dough over and cook the other side for another 1–2 minutes, until golden and bubbly in places.

7. Immediately slather the pizza with some of the tomato sauce, remove from the heat and add a slick more olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan, if you like, to serve. Repeat for the remaining disks of dough and the remaining topping sauce, serving the pizzas hot 



Carpaccio of Tomatoes with Tapenade


For the carpaccio


1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced or shaved


2 tablespoons Chardonnay or muscatel vinegar (or use white wine vinegar sweetened with a pinch of sugar)

800g (1lb 12oz) tomatoes, mixed colours and sizes, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons good olive oil

20g (3/4oz) rocket (arugula), washed and dried


For the tapenade


100g (3½oz) best-quality kalamata olives, pitted

1 thyme sprig, leaves picked

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon capers, desalinated and drained, or use pickled

6 anchovy fillets (optional, but sort of non-negotiable when it comes to tapenade)

4 tablespoons good olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper




Usually meant for meat or fish, carpaccio as a method for preparing tomatoes serves them very well indeed. It goes without saying, a sharp knife is essential. Slice the tomatoes very thinly and do try to keep them in form. A mixture of shape and colour is ideal here – laying them out attractively on a plate is the kind of meditative kitchen task that I find particularly enjoyable. If ever there were a time to really knuckle down and, as they say in the industry, plate something, then this is just that. Tomatoes as a work of art, with the inky black tapenade a fitting signature.


1. Toss the fennel with a pinch of salt and the vinegar and put to one side.

2. Make the tapenade. Put the olives, thyme, garlic, capers and anchovies on a board and chop, or pulse in a processor, until you have a coarse paste. Mix in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Lay the tomatoes out over a platter or large plate, seasoning each layer with pepper and a pinch of salt (remembering the tapenade is salty). Drizzle with the olive oil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. 4. To serve, add the fennel and rocket and spoon the tapenade over.

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