Roll on summer! Now is the time to welcome the warm season and get ahead with some light tomato-based dishes.
There are some fresh tomatoes available, but most of those grown close to home are not yet at their best, so today we are looking at the various forms of preserved tomatoes and how they can be used.
I will look at sundried tomatoes and pasta sauces at another time.
Tomatoes in any form have lots of health benefits. Millions are grown worldwide each year for good reason, but they vary hugely in flavour.
We can only be sure of the flavour of fresh tomatoes by buying them in small quantities and consuming within a couple of days.
Keep it as local as possible to get them as fresh as possible (and keep the carbon footprint down).
Vitamin C diminishes with time, but there will still be vitamin E and beta carotene, lycopene for protection from heart problems and some forms of cancer.
While no food will prevent either, tomatoes add to the store of ingredients which help to strengthen the immune system.
All types of tomatoes, canned, jarred or fresh, even tomato ketchup, retain their health benefits, but watch for salt content.
Up to 1.5% is fine as we usually consume preserved tomatoes in small quantities.
Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis may need to be careful with volume of tomatoes.
This is a good example of tomatoes used as a main feature of a dish. Organic with plenty of flavour, they are good to serve on the side with a simple fried or poached fillet of fish or a lamb chop with grilled baby gem lettuce or wilted baby spinach.
Try adding to a frying pan with an egg for breakfast, or mash onto toasted baguette with a drizzle of olive oil for lunch.
This tube of tomato mixture boiled down to make a thick paste has just salt and citric acid added.
A useful storecupboard ingredient, a quick squeeze will enrich many dishes and is good added to stir fries, stews and of course added to passata on a pizza base. 1.6% salt seems high, but as little is used each time, it’s not a worry.
Once opened, it’s handy frozen in ice cube bags if not using again soon. Good price.
Organic tomatoes in organic concentrated tomato juice makes for a rich mixture. A can of any kind of beans and a grated onion and garlic cooked slowly in oil for 10 minutes makes a quick and nourishing soup.
This one has 65% tomatoes which is better than the cheapest cans in our selection. No added salt is a plus and the flavour is of lively, fresh tomatoes.
This can of 99.8% tomatoes with just 0.3% salt is a decent offering and ideal for pasta dishes which need a little texture.
Good for meat or vegetable sauces. Tasty and more expensive than other brands, but worth it.
I wondered what these sliced tomatoes would be like compared to crushed tomatoes, and found quite firm quartered tomatoes in tomato juice. The flavour was quite like fresh tomatoes, though not very strong or sweet.
Best used in stews and sauces, but also drained and added to substantial chickpea salads. From Italian supermarkets/shops. I bought them in Delitaly Marlbrough Street, Cork.
Reduced organic tomatoes with 0.4% sea salt makes a good base for pizza and a wide range of sauces.
Add a few herbs and finely grated garlic and onion and heat for 10 minutes for an easy pasta sauce, and finish with grated cheese. Faster than heating up a pizza! Good fresh flavour here.
These whole tomatoes in tomato juice have 60% tomatoes, a little lower than some samples. Salt content at 0.10% is low and only citric acid is added.
Whole tomatoes are good added to lamb stews with some chopped garlic. Add stoned olives at the last minute.
However, this one will add little other than texture to the final result so add a good squeeze of tomato paste too.
The cheapest of our trawl of supermarkets, 60% tomatoes in tomato juice is low and it has no added salt, just citric acid to regulate the acids.
Lacking in flavour. Use to beef up stews and soups with a dessertspoon of tomato paste.
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