Tomatoes are often considered a summer fruit, but I think they’re at their best in the autumn, at least in Hong Kong. At other times, I buy only the small oval or pear-shaped tomatoes that are sold by fruit vendors. At this time of year, though, many shops carry an excellent range of flavourful tomatoes in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours.
Roasted cherry tomato, goat cheese and comté clafoutis
Most people know clafoutis as a sweet dessert – a type of rustic baked custard cooked with fresh fruit such as cherries or small plums. This version uses a savoury custard that is seasoned with aged comté cheese instead of sugar. I also like to add goat cheese to the tomato filling.
1.2kg small tomatoes, preferably a mix of colours and varieties
About 50ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the pans or ramekins
3 large eggs
60 grams 24-months-aged comté cheese, grated on a fine-toothed rasp-type grater (such as a Microplane)
70 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
About 350ml whole milk
200 grams soft, mild goat cheese
A sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Pull off and discard the stems from the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and mix to combine. If needed, add more oil so the tomatoes are lightly coated. Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet large enough to hold them in one layer. Sprinkle salt over the tomatoes, then bake at 220 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they are slightly shrivelled and starting to lose their juices. Take the tray from the oven. Reduce the heat to 200 degrees.
Lightly oil six wide, shallow individual-serving pans or ramekins that hold about 400ml each (I use small cast-iron skillets that are about 15cm in diameter). Place them in the oven to heat for about 15 minutes.
Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl, leaving behind the cooking juices. Pour the tomato juices into a measuring cup and add milk so the total amount of liquid is 400ml.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk well. Add the flour and whisk to combine, then mix in the tomato/milk mixture. Whisk in the grated comté cheese, a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cut the goat cheese into small chunks.
Remove the hot pans/ramekins from the oven. Working quickly, divide the tomatoes and goat cheese evenly between the pans. Pour the custard over the ingredients, dividing it evenly between the pans. Scatter thyme leaves over the top then put the pans back into the oven. Bake at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the custard is set, slightly puffy and browned around the edges. Cool slightly before serving.
Two-toned chilled tomato soup
Make this with the sweetest, brightest-coloured tomatoes you can find, choosing two colours. I like using red and yellow, although orange and yellow, or yellow and green are nice, too.
For the red tomato soup:
20ml olive oil
2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
500 grams small red tomatoes, halved
1 red bird’s-eye chilli
A pinch of chilli powder
About 15ml red wine vinegar
Fine sea salt
For the yellow tomato soup:
20ml olive oil
2 medium-sized shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
500 grams small yellow tomatoes, halved
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Several fresh Italian basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
About 15ml fresh lime juice
For the garnishes:
1 slice of crustless sandwich bread
About 60ml olive oil, or more as needed
Small leaves of fresh Italian basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
For the red tomato soup, pour 20ml of olive oil into a medium-sized pan, add the shallot and garlic and place over a medium-low flame. Sprinkle lightly with salt then cook, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic are soft. Cut the bird’s-eye chilli in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, then finely mince the flesh. Add the chilli and a pinch of chilli powder to the shallots and garlic, then mix in the tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt. Turn the flame to high and cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and give off some of their juices. Set aside to cool.
Make the yellow tomato soup. Toast the cumin seeds in an unoiled skillet until fragrant. Cool the cumin seeds then grind to a fine powder. Pour 20ml of olive oil into a medium-sized pan, add the shallot and garlic and place over a medium-low flame. Sprinkle lightly with salt then cook, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic are soft. Add the ground cumin, the tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt. Turn the flame to high and cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and give off some of their juices. Set aside to cool.
When the yellow tomato mixture is at room temperature, add the basil leaves and lime juice and purée until smooth in a food processor. Pour the mixture into a container with a pouring spout, then refrigerate for several hours. Rinse the food processor, then use it to purée the red tomato mixture with 15ml of red wine vinegar. Pour the mixture into a container with a pouring spout, then refrigerate for several hours.
Cut the sandwich bread into 5mm dice. Put the bread cubes into a bowl and drizzle with 60ml of olive oil. Mix so the bread cubes are lightly coated with oil; if needed, add more oil. Sprinkle a little salt over the bread cubes, then put them in a skillet set over a medium flame. Stirring often, toast the bread cubes until they are dry, crisp and pale golden, then drain on paper towels.
When it’s time to serve the soup, remove the mixtures from the fridge. The purées will probably be too thick (more like sauces than soups) so thin them to a soup consistency with cold water. Taste the soups and season as needed with salt. Add more vinegar to the red soup, and more lime juice to the yellow soup, if needed.
Take one of the containers of soup in each hand. Working slowly and steadily, pour the soups simultaneously into opposite sides of four shallow bowls, so the colours stay separate. Drizzle olive oil over both the soups in the bowls. Scatter the croutons over the red soup and add small basil leaves over the yellow soup. Serve immediately.