May marks the beginning of British tomato season and sees bright red, juicy varieties filling shop shelves across the UK. As part of British Tomato Week (16–22 May) we invited top chef Paul Foster – who is due to open his own restaurant, Salt, in Leamington Spa later this year – down to Le Cordon Bleu to host a masterclass showcasing just how good these homegrown fruits can be.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are a world away from the out of season, watery and bland varieties that are all too often stocked in the supermarkets. ‘A good tomato has to be really red,’ says Paul. ‘You should also be able to smell them from a few feet away; they’re the ones you’re looking for. If they’re on the vine, even better.
‘I’m a massive fan of British tomatoes – at my last restaurant (Mallory Court) we used to grow our own and my cooking is all about using the best quality produce when it’s available,’ he continues. ‘As soon as tomatoes are in season I use as many different varieties as much as I can. It’s the freshness that makes British tomatoes the best and the fact that they’re picked at the right time; strawberries are only good in the country they’re grown in and the same goes for tomatoes.’
The dish Paul demonstrated was his Plum tomato tart with Parmesan biscuit, avocado and chorizo. ‘I actually designed it last year for a culinary exchange I took part in with Mexico,’ he says. ‘Tomatoes were at the height of their season over there and I wanted to create something that celebrated that. It’s quite elegant and delicate, like something you’d find on a tasting menu, and is all about totally balanced flavours.