My last post was a tale of woe about the lack of damsons on the trees this year, compared to last. This summer has been a wash out here in the UK. We had a few days which were beautifully sunny but they were few and far between. Nevertheless, the garden has performed quite well this year, despite the lack of summer or perhaps because of it. The runner beans have flourished and we tried a purple bean this year, which has been lovely, although it loses its colour when cooked and looks like a green bean. Sweetcorn has been a great success, last year it was hopeless, and it is hard to describe how sweet and delicious corn is when cooked within minutes of picking. We have pumpkins in abundance. So many, I am not sure what we will do with them all. I have so many cucumbers, from just the one plant, that I could supply the local supermarket.
Our tomatoes though have not been as successful as previous years. We tried several varieties and a yellow and a cherry variety have been the most successful. However, the woodlice really like the yellow variety and have been enjoying themselves no end once they were finished with the strawberries. As a result, no woodlice were spared when I was splitting a load of logs the other week. No longer do I have any sympathy with the wood louse! Despite all of this, we have still had enough tomatoes to make a few batches of this roasted tomato sauce. I have used it as a pizza sauce; mixed into a risotto to stuff a roasted pumpkin; as a base for soup; and as a pasta sauce.
Roasting the tomatoes makes them sweeter and even more tomatoey. I add garlic cloves (unpeeled) and thyme or oregano, salt and pepper and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Cook them in a moderate oven (180°c, gas mark 4, the baking oven of the Aga) for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool a little, pop the garlic out of its skin, and then blitz the whole lot in the processor (or you could use a food mill). I don’t bother to strain through a sieve, but if you want a smooth, seed-free sauce then you should.
Life has been busy and so dinners have mostly been quick and easy. This sauce is my store cupboard sauce that I turn to when I need something that requires little thought or effort. The new potatoes are so delicious at the moment that I decided to serve the sauce with them instead of cooking pasta, which is a more usual accompaniment to this sauce.
It was really good – the melt in the mouth buttered potatoes were a delicious foil to this slightly acidic sauce.
100g chorizo sausage, sliced into 1 cm thick rings
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
400g tin of plum tomatoes, whizzed in a blender until smooth
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp capers
large knob of butter
chopped mint leaves
Scrape the new potatoes and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Add ½ tsp salt to the water and 3 sprigs of mint. Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender when you test with the point of a knife. Drain and return to the saucepan with the knob of butter.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking, place the chorizo, chilli and garlic in a pan with a little olive oil and cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree and the caper berries. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
Serve the chorizo sauce with the buttered potatoes and sprinkle with chopped mint.
Last night’s tea was completely inspired by Nancy over at Good Food Matters. She made the most delicious Tomato and Mozzarella Strata, all bubbling and pillowy. Well, last night I had the remains of a cooked chicken in the fridge and half a loaf of bread on the side. So I adapted Nancy’s Strata by adding the chicken chopped small as the first layer, cooking chorizo in with the tomato sauce and used feta instead of mozzarella. A very fine dish indeed. Pop over to Nancy’s to find out how to make your own savoury bread pudding.
This was the dish before it was baked in the oven for forty minutes.
As you may know we have a glut of tomatoes. I have wanted to make tomato ketchup for a long time. My mum made us a big batch of it when we were little and of course being kids we all tucked into expecting it to taste exactly like the famous stuff and we were all bitterly disappointed and voiced our opinion of this to our poor mother. I often think back to that moment now and feel very sorry for my mum. I have special empathy for her now, of course, as my own children often voice their disappointment with what I have just placed in front of them, mostly by exclaiming ‘yuck!’
As you grow older though your tastes change and this tomato ketchup tastes much better than the famous stuff.
This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe in The River Cottage Cookbook (ISBN 0 00 220204 2)
1.5 kg tomatoes
1 large onion (I used red as that is what we have grown in the garden)
1 small red pepper ( or half a big one)
50g soft brown sugar
100 ml white wine or cider vinegar
A square of muslin or tea towel, boiled for a few minutes to sterilise and then filled with the spices listed below and tie with string to make a spice bag.
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin seed
½tsp mustard powder
piece of cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground mace
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, bashed once to bruise
1 ½ tsp black peppercorns
½ – 1 tsp paprika and salt to taste at the end of cooking
Chop the tomatoes, onions and pepper and then place in a pan over a medium heat and cook until really soft. I cooked them for about 25-30 minutes.
Rub the tomato mixture through a sieve over a bowl to achieve a smooth skinless purée.
Place the purée back in the clean pan and add the vinegar and the sugar and the spices in the bag. Bring the mixture to a boil and the reduce the heat and simmer gently until the mixture is a good tomato ketchup consistency. Keep tasting as you will need to remove the spice bag when they have infused the mixture to your taste. I removed my spice bag after about 15 minutes and simmered the ketchup for about 40 minutes.
Add paprika and salt to taste. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal. This made 1¾ jar fulls for me.
I keep my jar in the fridge and intend to use it within a few weeks but Hugh FW says that it should keep for about a year. I can testify that it is great on a bacon sandwich.
We have an abundance of homegrown tomatoes at the moment. Every year at this time I make tomato soup, because, really, is there anything better?
Anyway, yesterday was deemed tomato soup day and we agreed that this was the best tomato soup I have ever made. It tasted like cream of tomato soup, but no butter or cream had been added. I can’t really explain where that creaminess came from, other than maybe the roasted garlic, but it was delicious. Roasting the tomatoes and the garlic first makes a big difference to the flavour, so don’t leave this stage out.
Serves 4 or 2 greedy people
500g fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic unpeeled
2-3 rashers of bacon
1 small onion or a couple of shallots
550ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
Put the whole tomatoes and the unpeeled cloves of garlic onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil and place in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) or the roasting oven of the Aga for about 20 minutes until nicely roasted and starting to brown a little around the edges.
In the meantime, slice the onion and dice the bacon and fry in a large pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.
Add the roasted tomatoes, with all the lovely juices, to the bacon and onion and squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and add to the tomatoey mixture. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Take the soup off the heat and whizz with a hand-held blender or in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Place back on the heat to warm through and serve in warmed bowls, with lots of bread for dunking.
This post has been waiting for me to write it for a while. I made this dish probably about ten days ago, but it’s been the end of the summer holidays and we have been making the most of our time with the girls.
This was the harvest from our polytunnel:
We were very excited as this is the first time we have had success with growing aubergines. Mr OC planted a mixed seed collection and these beauties were the result. We kept them in the house on the windowsills until the fruit appeared and then transferred them into the polytunnel and this, I think, has been the secret of our success. The ones planted directly into the polytunnel have produced flowers but no fruit, which was our experience last year. Our tomatoes have been brilliant this year, supplying a constant stream of ripe fruit and our basil is beautifully scented. I think this particular harvest is from a supermarket plant that I had pretty much used up in the house and so put it in the greenhouse and it has survived and gone from strength to strength.
I wanted to do something which made the most of both the aubergines and the tomatoes. Sometimes, the aubergine gets a bit lost when baked with a tomato sauce when I do an aubergine lasagne thingy. That is OK (and really quite delicious) when the aubergines are from the grocers, but when you have looked at them growing every day for a few months you really want them to be the centrepiece. I do minted aubergines quite a lot, but the mint is over and cut back in the garden now. Michele at Cooking at Home posted a wonderful and very inspiring pomodoro crudo the other week and so this seemed perfect to adapt a little for an aubergine and tomato salad.
So the tomatoes were diced and thrown into a bowl with some crumbled feta, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil and the basil and left to marinate whilst I got on with roasting the aubergines.
This picture doesn’t compare with Michele’s, so pop over to her site for a more beautiful image, where she uses mozzarella with her tomatoes.
I sliced the aubergines, sprinkled them with olive oil and seasoned generously with salt and pepper.
I then roasted them in the baking oven of my Aga, which is the equivalent of 180°c (gas mark 4) for about 20 minutes until soft and golden.
I placed the aubergines on the serving platter and placed the tomatoes and the lovely juices all over.
It’s best to leave it to stand for five minutes or so for the juices to be absorbed into the aubergine and then serve with lots of bread to mop up the juices.
This was a dish which definitely made the best of our polytunnel harvest.
Spring has nearly sprung. We have had some really spring-filled days in the last week or so, with blue cloudless skies and a watery sun. The washing has been hung outside to dry, bringing the fresh smell back in with it. It’s a sign of the times to come, or at least we hope it is. This change in the weather inspired me to make something that tastes of the summer and nothing reminds us more of summer than our oven dried tomatoes that were from our bursting at the seams polytunnel last summer. This dip was taken down to my parents’ house as part of a shared meal and it was really very tasty and it will be made again and again, I am sure of it.
It used up the last of the Total yoghurt – well they did give me a batch with a decent shelf life.
1 garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tbsp oven dried (or sun-dried) tomatoes in oil
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves
200g Total Greek yoghurt
salt and pepper
Blend the garlic, tomatoes and basil leaves in a food processor or blender, leaving them a little chunky, and mix with the yoghurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I have called this a hot-pot for more than one reason, it’s a lovely warming one pot dish, but it also has a fresh chilli and my local butcher’s spicy sausages in it, which are indeed spicy, making it a very hot pot indeed. You can of course use any sausage you prefer. It’s an easy and quick supper which is lovely served with purple sprouting as we had it, or with pasta or rice or just some good bread to mop up the tomato-ey juices.
6 sausages (spicy if you like)
1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely
1 400g tin tomatoes
1 215g tin of butter beans in water, drained
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Place the sausages in a large pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat and brown all over. Add the onion and cook for a few more minutes until beginning to soften, add the chilli and the garlic and cook for a further two minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, the butter beans and the bay leaf and season with pepper (don’t add the salt yet or it will toughen the beans). Stir to combine the ingredients and then cook over a gentle heat for at least 20 minutes until you have a rich tomato sauce. Add salt to taste just before serving.
If you have used spicy sausage and you find it too hot for your taste buds you can serve plain greek yoghurt alongside or stir in 2 tablespoons of yoghurt just before serving.
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I was inspired to make this because I was watching the Good Food channel (of which I watch far too much I admit!) and Rachel Allen made a version in her Favourite Foods programme which was followed shortly after by Market Kitchen and the chef in the market made a very similar version. I took it as a sign!
I served it with a roast chicken last night and it was good, although it might have been better if I had reduced the tomato sauce a bit more so it was less of a soup and more of a sauce. You can cook it to the consistency that you think you may prefer by just simmering it for longer if you want it more sauce-y than soupy.
You could substitute the chickpeas for butter beans and the kale for spinach or any other Brassica you have in the house.
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
A good-sized chunk of chorizo, cubed (I used about 100g)
1 410g tin of chickpeas in water (no salt added) drained of most of the liquid
1 400g tin of tomatoes
kale ( I used about 100g), shredded
feta cheese to crumble over the top
Heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and fry the chorizo until it begins to leach its golden fat, add the chilli and garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, add the chickpeas and a little bit of the water from the tin. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or longer if you would prefer a thicker consistency. Add the kale and cook for another five minutes until the kale is tender. Scatter cubes of feta over the top and serve with lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices.
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I call this my standby pasta sauce because it is the dinner I always turn to when I have failed to plan what to cook for dinner and it is already 5 o’clock. I put in whatever I have in the cupboard or fridge. The base is a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of tomatoes (or if it’s the summer and the greenhouse is in full flow a handful of fresh tomatoes whizzed to a passata in the blender), then I add a chilli if I have one or ½ tsp of dried chilli flakes, basil leaves or ½ tsp dried oregano. There is usually a chorizo sausage lurking in the fridge, and if I feel like it ( and have them in the cupboard) I add caper berries and olives. Tonight I had an aubergine that needed using up. It is really adaptable and is quick to cook. The girls, of course, won’t consider spoiling their favourite dinner of plain pasta with anything that resembles a sauce, so this dinner has something for everyone!
The recipe below is the one I served tonight.
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes (whizzed with a hand blender until smooth, but this isn’t absolutely necessary)
small handful of basil leaves, or ½ tsp dried oregano
1 chilli, chopped finely or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
chorizo sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks
salt and pepper
Chop the aubergine into cubes and fry in a pan with a little olive oil for two minutes over a medium heat. Add the chorizo sausage and fry for another two minutes until both are browned. Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, chilli and basil leaves and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about ten minutes until the tomato sauce is thick. Season to taste and serve with the pasta shape of your choice and plenty of parmesan cheese.
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