TONY STAPLES: Turn tomatoes into a versatile, tasty compote

Scallops with tomato and fennel compote
Scallops with tomato and fennel compote

A tasty tomato compote is the perfect partner for pan-fried scallops, says Tony Staples, executive head chef of the Arora Hotel in Crawley...

Let’s face it, this time of year, salad tomatoes are pretty tasteless, so the best way to eat them is cooked.

Tony Staples

Tony Staples

Once you have mastered the art of peeling and deseeding tomatoes – see my tip below – this recipe is very easy and makes delicious compote that is perfect with fish, lamb and chicken, and can even be used as a dip.

I think it would also work well stirred into pasta with a little olive oil for a simple supper dish.

Tomatoes are packed with healthy nutrients especially an antioxidant called lycopene, which apparently helps slow the growth of cancerous cells. And I learnt recently that cooked tomatoes produce even more lycopene, so another good reason to get cooking with them.

This tomato and fennel compote features in one of our new starters alongside pan-fried scallops, curls of crispy bacon and samphire.

The Grill in the Arora is Crawley’s only AA-rosette restaurant. To book, phone 01293 530000.

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Pan-seared scallops with tomato and fennel compote

Starter for 4

For the compote:

450g tomatoes

One bulb of fennel

25g butter

175 ml white wine

Shot of Pernod or aniseed liqueur – optional

2 tabs tomato puree

2 sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped

1 tab of cider vinegar – or tarragon vinegar

2tsp caster sugar

12 scallops

Knob of butter, melted


You can make the tomato and fennel compote up to two days ahead. Begin by skinning and deseeding the tomatoes and roughly chop.

Remove the green from the fennel bulb and chop finely as you would an onion. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and gently sauté the fennel until soft (15 to 20 mins).

Add the white wine and heat until the liquid evaporates. Add a shot of Pernod or aniseed liqueur and again heat until the liquid disappears. Stir in the tomato puree, the chopped tomatoes and tarragon. Turn the heat down low, pop on the lid and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours until the mixture resembles a jam. Add the vinegar and caster sugar, salt and paper to taste. Give it a good stir. It will now keep in the fridge for up to two days and can be reheated gently.

Brush the scallops with melted butter and sear in a hot pan for 1 minute, then flip over for a further 1-2 minutes.

Serve the scallops with some warmed tomato and fennel compote.

Chef’s tip

To skin tomatoes, use a sharp knife to cut out the eye of the tomato. Turn it over and cut a cross into the bottom. Drop into boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately drop into iced water. The tomato skin should flake off with a light rub.

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