Lately I’ve been really appreciating Pharrell Williams. Yeah, me and the rest of the internet. But I have to say that while his recent work with Daft Punk is good, that’s because it’s pretty much like the rest of Daft Punk’s work, and it isn’t rapturous. His four tracks for the ‘Despicable Me 2’ soundtrack, though–such fun! Also, he is a remarkably well-dressed ageless god. All things considered I cope very well with the fact that he isn’t my husband.
Pharrell’s music lifts spirits when it’s grey and complements when it’s cheerful. The same can be said of these slow-roast tomatoes.
(Not as smooth as Pharrell, though.)
I’ve made these with basic range supermarket tomatoes (though still June tomatoes and so not reproachably grim) and they were transformed utterly, so I can’t even imagine how fancy heirloom fruits would taste. Slow-roasting tomatoes is something worth doing to both preserve and heighten the joy of truly delicious fruits and to make the best of what tomatoes you have at your disposal. These little things are almost unbearably delicious: the heat concentrates the sweetness and umami into the tiny amount of rich juice left within the tomatoes, so a handful tossed into a salad or bowl of pasta just utterly completes the meal.
You’ll need 2.5 – 3 hours to roast the tomatoes very gently, but a relatively quick and still remarkable version can be made in about 45 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius. Try the super-slow version if you can, though. I know you might balk at turning on the oven for so long in this hot weather, but it’s not noticeable, even in my tiny airless kitchen.
Following the slow-roasted tomato recipes are a few suggestions for how to eat them. When making them I thought, ‘I like this thing and I like this other thing so I will put them together and hopefully like it very much indeed.’ I’m sure you’ve had this approach, too, and so you know the sense of gratification that comes when it turns out well on the plate.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Enough for 4 – 5 salads and pasta dishes, I think. Store in the fridge covered in oil.
600g – 700g cherry/small tomatoes, washed and dried
3 – 4 cloves garlic, if liked
A few sprigs fresh woody herbs or a few pinches dried herbs if wanted
Tiny bit of salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius/80 degrees fan. Line a large roasting tray with baking paper or foil.
Cut the tomatoes in half whichever way you care to. Cram them cut-side up onto the roasting tray; it doesn’t matter much if some tomatoes are in a double layer as they will shrink considerably–just make sure they’re not hugely mounded up.
Scatter the garlic and herbs (if using) over the tomatoes. Add the merest flicks of salt and pepper–the final tomatoes will be deeply flavourful already, so don’t overdo it at this stage. Drizzle the tomatoes lightly with olive oil, just enough to make them mostly glossy.
Roast for around 3 hours. If you’ve made a half batch you should check at 2.5 hours; conversely, add more time if you’ve made a bigger amount. Let them cool, snack on one or half a dozen, then store in the fridge.
BROAD BEAN, SLOW-ROAST TOMATO AND FRIED GARLIC OIL SALAD
Serves 1 for a light meal with some bread (or other starch) and maybe an egg on the side.
I used frozen broad beans for this and it was marvellous and so it would be exceptional if you can get fresh ones–they’re around from May to September in Britain, at their best between May and August. You can certainly make this with leftover cooked beans.
About 125g broad beans (podded weight)
1 – 2 heaped tablespoons flaked almonds
Handful of slow-roast tomatoes
Zest and juice from 1 lemon quarter
1 – 2 teaspoons fried garlic oil
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the podded broad beans. Cook for a few minutes until all of them are floating and just cooked, immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Double-pod the beans, removing the pale green skins with a thumbnail and a squeeze. You can leave this step out if you don’t mind eating the skins. Put into a medium bowl and set aside.
Put the flaked almonds in a small frying pan and set over a medium heat. Dry-toast them for a few minutes: let the nuts brown as evenly as possible, stirring regularly and turning the heat down if necessary. When all is gently sizzling, golden brown and fragrant, take off the heat and immediately add the toasted almonds to the broad beans.
Add the slow-roasted tomatoes to the beans and almonds, followed by the lemon zest, squeeze of its juice, and the garlic oil. Add a twist of salt and pepper. Toss and taste, adding more of the seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.
RIBBON PASTA WITH SLOW-ROAST TOMATOES AND FRIED GARLIC OIL
Serves 1. Quick billy-no-mates cooking but easily scaled up as needed.
Basically pasta aglio olio e peperoncino with some tomatoes thrown in. Nothing special but that does not preclude the fact of its deliciousness. Add fresh herbs or vegetables if you want.
100g – 150g dried ribbon pasta (I like fettucine for this)
1 – 3 tablespoons fried garlic oil (or just start off pasta aglio olio e peperoncino in the usual way)
1 – 2 fresh or dried chillies, roughly smashed
Handful of slow-roasted tomatoes
Zest and juice from quarter of a lemon
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. You’ll generally need about 10 – 12 minutes, but be sure to stir and taste regularly to make sure it cooks evenly and see how the texture develops.
When the pasta is done, drain it quickly and fling it back into the empty saucepan, still damp with some of the cooking water. Toss with 1 tablespoon fried garlic oil, the smashed chillies, slow-roast tomatoes, lemon zest and juice. Taste, adding more fried garlic oil so the pasta flows smoothly. Season and serve.
SPAGHETTI WITH SLOW-ROAST TOMATOES, GARLIC AND FRESH PEAS
For 2, generously. Again, aglio e olio with stuff added to it; again, not so much a recipe as a suggestion. Fresh peas are lovely when in season but frozen is permitted and encouraged when you can’t get them. This is also highly recommended with cooked double-podded broad beans. Also I actually think shell-shaped pasta would be more suitable but the desire for long, mouth-filling noodles usually gets the better of me.
250g spaghetti (or any pasta you like)
3 – 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly lengthwise.
2 hot chillies, fresh or dried, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
125g fresh peas (podded weight)
100g slow-roast tomatoes (about two handfuls)
Salt to taste
Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions, usually about 10 – 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the garlic and chillies. When the pasta is about 3 minutes away from being doing (it’ll be flexible but still chalky to the tooth), in a medium frying pan heat the extra virgin olive oil with the garlic and chillies over a moderate flame, lowering when it sizzles. Gently cook until the garlic is golden, transferring the fragrant mixture to a small heatproof bowl when this happens to prevent any burning.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it, leaving just enough of the cooking water clinging to the strands. Quickly transfer the hot pasta back to the empty saucepan or a mixing bowl and toss with the fresh peas, garlic-chilli oil, and slow-roast tomatoes. Grind over salt to taste before diving in.