Roasted Tomato Passata
It’s been a bit of an odd season for tomatoes this year. I love that a 20 minute conversation can take place across our Farmer’s Market trestle discussing just that. It’s not that tomatoes haven’t grown this Summer, more that they seem to be waiting in the wings for something spectacular to call them into their starring role. Who knows what the trigger is to turn a tomato from green to red; I unconvincingly placed my faith in the Sun taking that job on, but nope, we’ve had plenty of that and still no dice. A new theory did emerge after last weekend though.
We have a truly brilliant manager at the Barossa Farmer’s Market, we all love Jess, and not just for the extra shine she’s brought to Saturday mornings, but also for the fact she really gets what communities are authentically looking for – participation. Showing up and making something happen. In this spirit, Jess organised the inaugural Barossa Farmer’s Market Great Passata Collective, complete with hand drawn logo. No need to explain why we love her so; hand drawn and hand coloured logo. On the back of a brown paper bag. It’s true.
The idea was, that a group of us keen green thumbs picked up our baby tomato plants in time to nurture a serious amount of homegrown produce to pool in the ‘Collective’s’ passata pot, at a later stage in the season. The part the tomatoes didn’t understand was their obligation to be ripe for the occasion, but to quote our Collective Commander, “never let perfect get in the way of good” – so we bought 200kg of tomatoes from fellow stall holder and the day was underway. It was brilliant. Dean Martin was cranking, interspersed with John on his mandolin, the passata was flowing and a quietly ingenious pasta machine assembly line assembled itself, so we could all share the day’s efforts with a communal lunch. Jess adoration was at its peak at this point!
So my latest theory on tomatoes and ripening, developed after the Great Passata Collective, because that’s exactly when our tomatoes ripened. Little punks knew we’d set a date for them to be ready and figured our expectation needed a little tempering with a reminder of who’s running this show. That’d be Nature. Let’s call the Collective the best way to have a practice run in passata making – ever – and run with the chance it gave me to tweak a few things after the fact. In lieu of a missing assembly line of pasta machines at the ready and all those extra hands to make light work, I went with the easiest option I could think of; put all the uncut tomatoes, stems and all, into a roasting pan with a good dousing of olive oil, salt and pepper, and this way the oven makes passata for you while you drink tea, or similar. I’ve never done this before so I was quietly relieved when it actually worked. Once the tomatoes are burnished and shrunken, throw the whole lot into a colander, or mesh sieve, over a pan and use the back of a spoon to push the reduced tomato pulp through. The stems and skins stay on one side of the fence and the already seasoned tomato puree lands in the pan. Done.