When you go through the years of training as a chef, you often are given pieces of advice which you hold on to for years, without really questioning why. One of those pearls of wisdom, which was passed on to me, was to never use fresh tomatoes in sauces or stews. Tinned plum tomatoes, I was told, where always much superior. There is much truth in this for much of the year, when tomatoes are out of season. It has to be said that some years English tomatoes fail to deliver even in the summer, due to the lack of warmth and sun, but when the tomatoes are in season in our boxes, albeit from Spain, it seems a shame to open a tin, when you have a lovely, fresh ones ready to use.
Obviously, it depends what you are cooking, and a curry really does not require a strong tomato flavour. I think the fresh tomato was subtler and more authentic, and really helped lift this curry to a new level. Yes, they have to be blanched first to remove the skins which is a bit time consuming but once the tomatoes have cooked down they are instantly ready and unlike tinned ones, do not have to simmer for ages to remove the metallic taste usually present in even the best canned tomatoes.
I might even try a fresh tomato sauce next!
Spring Green, Chickpea, Tomato & Coconut Curry
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, grated
Large knob of ginger, scraped and grated
6 large, very red, ripe tomatoes (650g)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
I fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped or a pinch chilli flakes
½ 400g tin coconut milk
400g can chickpeas, drained
1 large head of spring greens
Small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Heat a heavy bottomed large saucepan and add the coconut oil. Add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes of so until sort and very lightly coloured.
Meanwhile put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cut a small cross in the top of your tomatoes. Add them to the pan of boiling water and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the skins begin to come away. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Remove the skins and roughly chop. Next put your spring greens in the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove and leave to drain, well spared out, in a large colander or on a clean tea towel to drain and quickly cool.
Meanwhile, add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the onion. Add the spices, salt and pepper and fry for a minute or two. Next add the fresh tomato, turn down the heat, add the drained chick peas and gently cook until the tomato is collapsed and quite dry. Add the coconut milk and then the spring greens. Heat through but do not boil at this stage. Check seasoning. Stir though the fresh coriander.