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Life is too short to peel tomatoes
Endless Summer with lots of Tomato recipes to savour this season
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There are a great many things I find unnecessary, such as Jollof Arancini, grilled watermelon, airfryers, peeling tomatoes and even worse, peeling strawberries. Yes, it’s a thing. (Stay with me, please, and look at the strange strawberry peeling ‘phenomena’ later.) Just as several cultures of the world call for peeling tomatoes for sauces etc, I never came across this method of cooking as an African child, travelling the world, or perhaps I just didn’t notice, until my early adult life eating more Eurocentric food. I’ve been told that, peeling the skin is necessary for a smoother sauce. I’ve never had this non-smooth tomato sauce issue with a good blender. I’ve also been told that it allows the tomatoes to soak up dressings even better. Again, another problem I didn’t realise existed. Why on earth does anyone bother to peel a tomato? Do you peel tomatoes?
I have never peeled a tomato, nor do I want to. The thought of scoring a shallow X before proceeding to blanch these savoury sweet fruits in hot water for about 30 seconds, until their skins loosen, ready to be peeled ever so easily…
Allow me to rephrase. I’d like to never peel a tomato again. After writing the above paragraph, I learnt how to peel tomatoes, for two reasons. Because I love learning, especially about food, and because I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving you high and dry, if unlike me, you do want to spend glorious days peeling tomatoes.
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While I protest this act of peeling tomatoes, I was delightfully surprised at how lovely it could be, when I was served a tricolour of peeled British tomatoes in chive oil with preserved lemon, at Beckford Canteen in Bath, Somerset. (aka Bridgeton town) On a beautiful Sunday after meandering through the city, the day after I’d just performed, (cooked ~ I just like to say performed, so I feel like a bit of a rock star, so please indulge me) I glided down the cobbled streets, past the Sunday lunchers and into this charming restaurant. Straight round the back to the terrace, starting with a cool Chenin-Viognier blend and a lovely feast to come.
A delightful restaurant that I would happily return to time and time again. The tomatoes reminded me of my Kachumbari from Africana, but without the zing of the hibiscus or the warmth of the chilli. It was juicy without the bite of the skin. Lovely! However, I didn’t feel that the lack of skin elevated the dish. What followed for a sumptuous Sunday roast with all the trimmings. Such places make me fall in love with Bath even deeper.
If I was a fruit, I’d be a tomato. And rightly so, my nickname is Lerato Tomato. You can call me Tomato, and I will respond, happily. It started as a joke, which I quickly owned and used to help people pronounce my name correctly. I’d say, I am Lerato, like Tomato. And they’d be so stunned, often amused, never to call me Loretta, Loretto or Laura, ever again!
I adore tomatoes, and not just eating them. I love their essence, from dark red skins to golden yellow, green and purple. The plump and juicy nature, and especially how they can be savoury and sweet at the same time, creating such fabulous salads, finger - licking stews, fruity jams and…ketchup! I love ketchup!
I must have told you, or perhaps I wrote it somewhere in Africana. As a child, I was a very picky eater, but give me rice or bread and tomato stew, and all was right with the world. And so as summer fades in the UK and with it being tomato season in its peak, I am embarking on a feast with as many fresh tomatoes as I can enjoy. From cherry toms to heritage beef tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, and hopefully some from the allotment planted a few months ago.
With tomatoes at their peak season in the UK, from now until October, I intend to enjoy all the glorious sweetest, especially in the wonderful recipes listed below from my cookbook, alongside some from our newsletter archives. I’ll also begin canning some prized sauces and jams. And if you will love sunshine on your plate beyond September, I suggest you get ready to preserve those fruits and vegetables. I’ll pop in with a letter about preserving and with some more jam recipes.
If you happened to miss the recipe/technique for peeling tomatoes shared at the top of this letter, please scroll up, as I may never speak of or write about peeling tomatoes, ever again. For now I leave you with lots of inspiration for gorging on summer’s bounty. None of which require you to peel a tomato.
What to cook with Tomatoes from Africana Cookbook
These vibrant, thirst-quenching, fresh, fruity and fabulous, and all vegan and vegetarian recipes are perfect for the season and beyond. Our community is growing across the world, and I love it when you cook the book or any of my recipes, and share your photos and videos. Please keep them coming as it also inspires others to keep cooking. Use hashtags #Africanacookbook and or #CookwithLerato so that all our creations are easy to find. Are you ready for a tomato-geddon?
Click on the recipes with links to find them or for videos of how I cook them.
Zaalouk - Smoky Aubergines & Sautéed Tomatoes, page 42 (North Africa)
Wara/Wagashi - Fried Halloumi with Cherry Tomatoes & Red Pepper Sauce, page 54 (West Africa)
Moin Moin - Bean Tarts With Pan-Roasted Tomatoes & Peppers Or Mushrooms & Caramelised Onions, page 58 (West Africa)
Plantain Shakshuka, page 62 (West & North Africa)
My Golden Ugandan Rolex, page 6 (East Africa)
Kachumbari with Hibiscus Pickled Onion, page 160 (East Africa)
Attiéké - African Grain Salad, page 164 (West Africa)
Black-Eyed Bean Salad with Roasted Peppers, Tahini & Lime, page 165 (West & North Africa)
Tomato & Strawberry Salad, page 170 (West African/British produce inspiration)
Aubergine Yassa - Roasted Aubergines & Tomatoes, page 176 (West Africa)
Chakalaka - South African Mother Sauce, page 189 (South Africa)
Smoky Tomato & Date Jam, page 257 (My imagination + West Africa + Ketchup obsession)
Sauce Piment Chilli Sauce, page 259 (West & East Africa)
Fresh tomato recipes from the COOK WITH LERATO collection
A delightful Tomato Tart, perfect for the plump fruits of seasons.
AFRICANA ~ Treasured recipes & stories from across the continent
AFRICANA - The modern classic book on African Cookery.
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Telegraph's Best Books of Autumn 2022 - The Telegraph
"There isn't a recipe I don't want to cook." - Diana Henry
"An outstanding new book. Lerato is a genius with flavour" - Delicious Magazine
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