Tomato butter is a creamy condiment, smoky with paprika, sweet like tomatoes and mildly salty from butter whisked into the sauce.
What is tomato butter?
It’s not butter in terms of texture but it’s a miracle product. I lifted the recipe from chef Matt Tebbutt who used it as pita filling. I didn’t like the skins floating about so I passed the lot through a sieve and that turned out to be the thing to do.
It is like sauce, but it’s not sauce; the combination of smoked paprika and tomatoes is a killer; and it doesn’t separate even when gently re-heated.
How to make tomato butter?
It cooks quickly and easily and it’s perfect if you have a glut of ripe cherry tomatoes.
If you need to wash them (as in, they’re not your own organic garden tomatoes), let them dry thoroughly.
A little olive oil in a frying pan ideally large enough to fit them all in a single layer over high heat and whoosh! As soon as they release moisture there will be some spitting and sizzling.
They need to be tossed in the pan (the technical term is ‘sautéed’) until the skins start to char and blister.
When they look like they really are ready to burst, use either a wooden spoon or a potato ricer to smash them gently, every single one.
Then let it all bubble and thicken nicely over medium heat. Once most of the liquid has gone, we can stir in the gorgeous, smoky paprika and start whisking in the butter, little by little.
And all that remains now is to make the mixture smooth, velvety and divested of skins and seeds.
The ideal tool is a food mill, popular in the Mediterranean kitchens. It makes an easy job of the task, with the largest mesh used since we only want to discard the skins rather than finely puree it.
If you don’t have one, try pressing the pulp through a colander using a soup ladle. Or grab a stick blender and simply blitz it.
The tomato butter will keep for a good week or two in the fridge.
How to use tomato butter?
It is excellent spread on bread and toast, of course, as you would do with butter. The minor fact that it looks more like bread spread with tomato soup does nothing to impair the wonderful taste. A bacon sandwich with bread anointed with tomato butter becomes a revelation.
It works a treat on pasta, as you might guess and makes preparing pasta dinner a short shrift. Simply boil your pasta and toss it with tomato butter – presto, pronto, bar a sprinkling of Parmesan. A pack of desperate ready filled pasta will also get a taste-elevating makeover with dollops of the butter on the ravioli or tortellini.
Jacket potato – tick. It cheers up boiled cauliflower no end. Grilled or steamed fish will need nothing else than the tomato butter as a condiment and you might even succeed to enliven roast chicken fillet with the butter.
The world is your tomato, depending on your preferences. Make it hot, hot, hot by sneaking a chilli pepper into the skillet with cooking tomatoes. Likewise, a couple of cloves of garlic may find their way into the mix. Or both.
Lemon zest or herbs, especially basil, will need to be added at the very end, to preserve their vibrance.
For a salty, umami hit swap salted butter with unsalted and add a generous teaspoon of anchovy paste (or 4-5 tinned anchovies) to cooking tomatoes. Unless you’re a salt junkie like me and you want to use salted butter AND anchovy paste but be mindful of potential health effects.
But do try the purist version first and you won’t get enough of the smoky, sweet and buttery flavour of the original.
More condiment recipes
Classic, tartly sweet cranberry sauce made with orange juice is indispensable at Christmas. This cranberry sauce can be made ahead and keeps well in the fridge.
Homemade mayo, so rich and smooth you can eat it on its own. Patience in dripping oil into the mixer drop by drop pays off tenfold.
Homemade redcurrant jelly is awesome with roast lamb, turkey pie and venison steaks. And this is a super speedy recipe which still makes crystal clear jelly!
More tomato recipes
Tomato sauce made from scratch really is the best and it basically cooks itself. Italian staple, it can be used on pasta or pizza, for preparation of Bolognese or to smother some delicious meatballs.
Tomato sorbet made from fresh tomatoes, without an ice cream maker, is the perfect appetizer or palate cleanser.
Tomato nun, la religieuse de tomate, is an exquisite appetiser of cold, uncooked tomato stuffed with pesto-flavoured burrata cheese.