You say TOM -ART-Toe and I say Tom-Mate-Toe !

So goes the famous song once sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and of course Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

But tomatoes, it never occurred to me that people might not know that there is a right and wrong way to cut tomatoes. Does it really matter? In reality I suppose not, after all sliced or diced, they are eaten anyway.

Tomatoes are fruits, which we tend to eat as vegetables.

Any thing that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit.”

That definition includes apples, tomatoes, and anything else that grows from a plant and contains seeds. Cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, and avocados are all fruits too.

Rhubarb on the other hand is a vegetable, but nearly always used as a fruit, and was declared that it is a FRUIT by a New York Court in 1947 ! Seriously, changing nature by a Law!

The most important item when preparing tomatoes, is a knife or two. Not just any old knife, either a fine serrated knife, or I prefer a very sharp straight edge knife, and a sharp paring knife ( this is a small one), and also a grapefruit knife comes in handy.But they must be sharp, secondly a chopping board, of your choosing.

tomato that has been cored

Generally speaking the core needs to be removed, this is where the tomato was attached to the plant and is thick. To do this, hold the tomato firmly with one hand. and insert the tip of the paring knife into the tomato and cut an angled circle around the core. and remove it.

Once the core is removed tomatoes can be quartered ( or smaller wedges), slices and stuffed.IMG_9869

Slices, now there is a point. Slices need to be cut from the stem end ( or the other way round) But never slicing down the side of the stem. Why? does it make a difference. Well aesthetically they just look better done the right way ( don’t you dare enter Master Chef and cut them the wrong way), but also the pulp tends to fall out and looking at the images, you will see that the ones cut correctly are much more symmetrical in appearance, hence in a Tomato and Mozzarella salad where appearance is everything, it is very important.

(the above show the stalk end of the tomatoes, tomatoes wrongly sliced and those correctly sliced)

If you do not like the skin ( stuffed tomatoes are so much better skinless), then it needs to be removed, and there is a simple way in which to do this. Prick the cored tomato in several places with a skewer and place in a cup or jug of boiling water for several minutes , remove from the water and with a sharp knife peel away the skin. Unfortunately, my mother had not learnt this. One day I called and she was unhappy as her tomato had fallen on the floor, whilst she attempted to peel it with a potato peeler ! Today on can actually buy a potato peeler look alike which does peel very finely, so it is also a solution.

And lastly, stuffed tomatoes. One does not have to be a good cook to make this very simple, but attractive starter. Removing the middle of the tomato is relatively simple, but especially so if you have a Grapefruit knife.

The Victorians ( in England at least) had a gadget for everything, a  bread fork here, a grapefruit knife there, a silver container for crackers, or a wooden dish especially for stilton cheese. Knives and forks for fruit and others for cheese, a device for holding a leg of lamb for carving and another for Fois Gras. Cake servers and a cross between a server and fork for Angle food cake. Grape scissors,  little fork for pickles ,a silver bread basket ladles both big and small, asparagus tongs ( as well as special plates), cake stands and fruit bowls, there was no end to the inventiveness of the Victorians!

Back to emptying the tomato, cut off the top and simply using a sharp knife ( grapefruit knife of even grapefruit spoons) gently carve out the innards and discard. Today with so many ready prepared fillings from Hummus to Egg Mayonnaise, just choose a filling you fancy and serve on a bed of salad.

Many supermarket tomatoes are rather bland and tasteless, many more are now selling “on the Vine”, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these have been grown outdoors and have that wonderful aroma, they don’t , but I have to say they are better than some. If you have the chance to go to a farm shop, when tomatoes are really in season, then do so, or grow your own. The trouble with that of course, it is feast or famine, as they all come at once !!

A Bleeding Heart!

What did you do on Valentines Day? Here in the UK we say Valentines Day, the same as we say New Years day, whereas in the US it is “Happy Valentines” or ” what are you doing for “New Years”?IMG_1227

Anyway, however you call it, what did you do? Himself has been banned from buying me flowers for Valentines ( see just the one word) and No way Red Roses. However, he broke the rules, as he sets himself a mental check list and ticks it off in his mind…….Mission accomplished.

This year, and it is beginning to become a bit of a marathon. Two daughters, three granddaughters not to mention the wife! And he succeeded, job done for another year. Thank goodness we have Marks and Spencer delivery service.

What did I do ? Firstly, I bought himself some Krispy Kreme Valentines doughnuts. Not that he needed them, but he actually does like them, and they do freeze, if you are wondering. Then I had friends for dinner and the task I set myself was a red, or pink dinner!IMG_4477

For starters we had, Crotin de Chavignol on salad with cherries, pomegranite  seeds, slivers of beetroot and raspberry dressing.

Main was Salmon en croute with sautéed beetroot, gnocchi on a tomato base and roasted baby vine tomatoes.

But my pièces de résitance were desserts. I actually rarely make desserts, I don’t need them but if I do make dessert it is usually something I can freeze, then himself can help himself!IMG_9768

Here we had, an Upside down Rhubarb cake,  Cheese Ice cream with speculoos dust and raspberries, Strawberries dipped in white chocolate and a Bleeding heart. Actually it is called a Cœur à la Crème, and is amazingly simple to make and looks beautiful.IMG_2176

The only problem with making this dish, is the mould. It does not have to be heart shaped, but would help, as it is a heart shape dessert. I have googled and found one, and I have listed it below.

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Alternatively, take a silicon cake mould and using a skewer pierce several holes in the bottom of the mould. It is necessary so that the whey can drain out, which will make the dessert firm enough to un-mould.

To make a Cœur à la crème you will need:-

  1. 2 8oz packets of soft cream cheese ( like Philadelphia)
  2. 600 mls of double cream
  3. 4 egg whites, whisked until stiff
  4. 1 tablespoon of fine white sugar.
  5. packet of frozen raspberries defrosted, sugar to taste and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Beat in another container the cream cheese, sugar and cream together ( I use a food processor). Carefully stir in the egg whites until well blended together. Line the mould with dampened muslin ( or I used a new J Cloth). Scoop in the mixture, cover with cling film, refrigerate and leave to drain and set over night.

Puree the raspberries and put through a sieve ( get rid of those bits) Add the lemon juice and sugar to taste.

When ready to serve, invert the dessert onto a plate, pour over the raspberry coulis and serve.