Tomatoes 2.0: 5 unusual ways to cook with cherry tomatoes

by Great British Chefs 24 September 2020

We all know tomatoes are fantastic with cheese or cooked down into a sauce, but the UK’s top chefs are doing so much more with these beautiful little fruits. From unusual flavour combinations to serving tomato-based desserts, take a look at some of the more leftfield ways you can use tomatoes in your cooking.

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For a small South American fruit only introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century, the tomato has certainly made its mark on global cuisine. They can be found in nearly every national cuisine, even becoming a cornerstone of daily cooking in the likes of Spain and Italy, and for many of us a few tomato plants in the garden is one of the joys of summer. Not bad for something which for a while was regarded as a poisonous plant.

While we use tomatoes in sauces and salads on a near-daily basis in the UK, there is so much more these colourful fruits can offer. No one is denying they are the perfect partner for cheese on a pizza, sing when dressed in olive oil and intensely flavoured when slow-cooked and collapsed – but some chefs are starting to go beyond the standard uses for tomatoes and trying something new. The five recipes below showcase just how versatile cherry tomatoes – often the sweetest and most flavourful of the bunch – can be. Give them a go and taste what we’ve been missing out on all these years.

Tomatoes as a dessert

They’re technically a fruit, so it makes sense that they’d work in a dessert! While it might sound a bit strange at first, this knockout dish from Pascal Aussignac shines a new light on tomatoes, presenting them in a picture-perfect tart that’s suited to being served both as a starter and a dessert. The sweet pastry case contains a tomato compote and lightly caramelised halved cherry tomatoes, with the addition of Fishermen’s Friend lozenges to give a subtle eucalyptus back note. Weird? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Tomatoes with black garlic

Black garlic is one of those wondrous ingredients that add bags of flavour to a dish, and here it’s unmistakably umami-rich taste is used to infuse bouncy tapioca pearls with a striking colour and moreish flavour. While a little fiddly to prepare, these eye-catching stuffed tomatoes are a fantastic little canapé to serve at a party, or pile them high on plates for a starter with a difference.

Tomatoes with watermelon

You can’t get much more refreshing than a slice of watermelon, and its sweetness makes it a surprisingly good match with tomatoes – especially in a savoury setting. This salad pairs the two fruits together with a generous sprinkling of salt, pistachios and mint, with a little goat’s curd on the side for creaminess. Perfect for a light summer lunch in the garden.

Tomatoes poached in oil

Cooking anything confit – a technique that involves gently poaching an ingredient in oil or fat until soft – is going to make it taste better, but it’s a method usually reserved for duck and fish. Tomatoes, however, really benefit from being bathed in warm oil for a while, which cooks, dresses and flavours the fruits all at once. Paired with creamy butterbeans, rich chorizo and a wonderful saffron aioli for dipping, this is an indulgent dish that manages to balance richness, sweetness and savouriness in equal measure.

Tomatoes as a set jelly

The liquid found inside tomatoes is often cooked out of them, but by blitzing up the fruit and straining out the liquid you can create a beautifully clear, flavourful water that smells and tastes like a greenhouse full of ripe tomatoes in the middle of summer. This dish takes that liquid and sets it into a jelly, on which a combination of white crab meat, marinated tomatoes, cucumber, croutons and dill happily sit on top.