Category Archives: tomato

Sweet Aubergine

The garden is beginning to look a little woolly now that it’s the end of September, the apples and pears are falling from the trees and the courgettes have slowed so much that they have become a valuable commodity again. Even the beans are beginning to be defeated with the drop in temperature but to be honest we have eaten so many beans that it’s time for a change. The pumpkins are dragging their feet a bit which, considering we had quite a lot of days over 18c this summer, is strange but no doubt they will have caught up by the end of next month. There has been enough rain for them to continue  to grow.

We have a great crop of aubergines in the tunnel which partner well with the ripe tomatoes. Both are technically fruits and members of the nightshade family and as they generally grow in harmony with each other they turn up together in a lot of recipes.

I have been making Caponata, a Sicilian dish, which is like a sweet and sour version of ratatouille. It’s one of those recipes with lots of variations and secret family twists. Some recipes include raisins or sultanas and some peppers and courgettes. It’s a very flexible recipe so use what you have and what you enjoy. I’ve added a pear from our ancient gnarly pear tree which produces very hard fruit. It’s not traditional but I think it’s an interesting addition.

Caponata can be eaten warm with meat and fish, as a side vegetable, stirred through pasta or on bruschetta (toast rubbed with garlic and olive oil). It’s one of these dishes that gets better as it sits so if you have time to make it ahead and can leave it for some hours so much the better.

For this recipe you need to find yourself a beautiful bright aubergine that’s nice and taut, avoid any that are  soft as they will have been picked some time ago.

Caponata

1 aubergine 

1 onion

mls olive oil

3 stems celery

1 hard pear

3-4 lrg ripe tomatoes or 1 can tomatoes

2 tbs capers

3tbs golden sultanas

2 -3 tbs pitted green olives

20g pine nuts

3tbs good red wine vinegar or balsamic 

1-2 tsp sugar

Handful fresh basil

Salt and pepper

Dice the aubergine into 2cm cubes, toss with a little salt and put aside for 15 minutes. 

Soak the capers in a small bowl of water to remove excess salt then drain. 

Peel and chop the onion, heat a medium pot, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom and stir in the onion. Cook on a medium heat. Chop the celery small and add to the onions, Season with a little salt then leave it to gently sizzle away without browning. Peel and chop the pear and stir in. Cook the vegetables for ten minutes, until they begin to melt down.

If you are using fresh tomatoes cut them in half then grate them on the coarse side of the grater over a bowl. If you using a can roughly chop the tomatoes.  Stir the tomatoes into the pot, increase the heat and when it’s bubbling away turn to simmer. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Take a handful of the aubergines and squeeze them to remove excess water. Do this to all the aubergines. Put a frying pan onto the heat, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and add the aubergine. Toss well then cook over a high heat for a few minutes, until the aubergine takes a little colour. You might need to do this in two batches. Add the fried aubergine into the pot then stir in the sultanas, olives, capers, vinegar and sugar. Leave to gently simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Heat a small pan and gently toast the pine nuts then stir into the Caponata.

Chop the basil, add, then check the seasoning – it probably won’t need any more salt as the olives and capers look after that department. 

Take off the heat and leave to rest before eating.

Enjoy the last of the summer’s harvest, we’ll be eating cabbages soon!


Welcome Bounty

The Azores High brought great excitement and good weather to West Cork in July. For ten days it was like living in the Mediterranean. The beaches were packed and the sea full of people bobbing about, a rare and delightful sight. Families were moving in with plastic bathtubs full of picnic and kit and I felt I had been transported to another country. It began to feel the norm to get up and put my shorts on at every opportunity until the day the rain returned.

Inchydony beach at 8 o’clock in the evening

The culmination of the heatwave with the torrential rain was welcomed by gardeners and farmers alike and the courgettes sighed a breath of relief. For a vegetable that has a sunny reputation it needs a lot of water to happily produce. I have lived here for so long that I really should not be surprised about this nor how late it is before they arrive in abundance. And I must concede that everything seems happier with a little less heat and more water. I’d happily stand in the sunshine watering the garden but it’s not the same as a good dump of rain. All in all the garden is good, first sunshine and then rain seems to have done the trick, it’s all looking very green and happy

August brings home gardeners to the ultimate eat everything you have grown moment. After patiently waiting, weeding and watering there’s a rush on the ripening front. Peas, beans, kales, salads, fennel, beetroots, spuds, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, apricots, raspberries, blueberries. We’re drowning in some kind of food nirvana!

Here is a recipe from our friend Elisa of Syros in Greece which we enjoy this time of the year. 

Gemista, which means ‘filled with’ in Greek, are ripe vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs then baked with potato wedges and olive oil. Tomatoes, peppers and courgettes all enjoy this treatment. It’s an ideal recipe to make for sharing, perfect for a big family dinner or entertaining. Once the vegetable preparation is done the dish goes into the oven for an hour, then comes to out relax for at least 30 minutes before serving. In Greece this dish is not served hot. Letting everything sit allows the juices to settle and flavours develop.

The tomatoes are very important in this recipe as it’s the juice of the tomato that cooks the rice. Big fat tomatoes are the ones to look out for. It doesn’t matter if they are misshapen or ugly as long as they are big. If you don’t grow your own or have a friend or relative that might share some with you try the farmers markets, failing that the supermarkets sell big tomatoes. As a general rule the more local the tomato, the tastier it will be.

This recipe makes enough for six hungry people but is easy to scale back if you would like to make less

Gemista – Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

6 large ripe tomatoes

6 small bell peppers

6 onions

12tbs arborio rice

50g pine nuts

50g currants

150mls olive oil

bunch parsley

bunch of mint

6 medium/large waxy potatoes

Cut the tops off the tomatoes with a small sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and the flesh with a spoon without tearing the tomato. Put the tomato tops and the empty tomatoes aside.

Roughly chop the flesh and seeds, keeping all the juices as far as possible then put into a bowl. 

Cut the tops from the peppers, take out the seeds then put the peppers and tops aside

Peel and finely chop the onions. Heat a large frying pan, add enough oil to generously cover the bottom and when it’s hot add the onions. Cook on a medium heat, without browning, until the onions soften. Season with a little salt. Add the pine nuts and currants, cook for a couple of minutes more then add the rice, tomato juice and flesh and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat. Chop the herbs and stir in then leave to cool.

Pre heat the oven 180c

Fill the tomatoes and peppers loosely with the mix and put the tops back on.

Place in an oven proof baking tray with high sides that will accommodate the vegetables snuggly.

Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. Jam these in between the tomatoes and peppers. Drizzle everything generously with olive oil.

Bake for about 1 hour, until the tomatoes and peppers are soft and lightly charred.

Leave them to relax for 30 minutes before serving.


Tomato Party

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Storm Ellen did a superb job of flattening our beans but fortunately the tomato tunnel stood strong and our beautiful tomatoes are still ripening and bursting with flavour.

The feasting is endless. Tomatoes with everything.

Whilst browsing for tomato ideas I came across a recipe for Panzanella. It was the picture that caught my fancy as a salad using old bread that was dried then got wet again sounded odd. I checked out a few more recipes and realised this idea had real potential and no better chance of success than when surrounded by ripe home grown tomatoes.

Panzanella originates in Italy where there are ripe tomatoes and dry bread aplenty. These simple ingredients paired with the best olive oil and vinegar that you can lay your hands on make a stunning salad.

The first step is to dry out the bread, which proved easier said than done in a West Cork kitchen. I used thick slices of sour dough bread as recommended and spread it out in a bread basket and left it in the kitchen to dry.

In the south of Europe where these recipes originate bread bought in the morning is stale by the evening, hence the proliferation of recipes using old bread but no such luck here. Two days later the bread was still perfectly edible and far from dry so I turned the oven on for assistance.

I couldn’t resist rubbing the slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic before ripping it into small pieces and tossing with a drizzle of olive oil. ( if you like garlic bread, you will like this) I spread the bread on a baking tray, popped it in the oven and ten minutes later it was beautifully dry .

Now is the moment to make this recipe if you live in this part of the world. The local tomatoes are ripe and at their full flavour potential. The only time of the year we can eat such tasty tomatoes without travelling. Check out the farmers markets and small stores that sell home grown vegetables

This recipe is well worth the effort = dry bread and tomatoes tossed together with olive oil, vinegar and basil makes a sublime combination however odd it might sound, a real flavour and texture bomb in the mouth.

Simplicity at its best

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Panzanella

Tuscan Tomato and Bread salad

 

4  large ripe tomatoes

4 thick slices sourdough or country bread

3 cloves garlic

1 small red onion.

1 bunch basil

150mls extra virgin olive oil

50mls vinegar – the best you have

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and black pepper

Anchovies in oil (optional)

 

Put the oven on 180c

Cut the crusts from the slices of bread, rub with a cut side of garlic – no need to peel it.. Tear the bread into small pieces (2cm).

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Put it into a bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil 1-2tbs, toss well then spread out on a baking tray. Bake for ten minutes then check. The bread should be crisp but not brown.

Dice the tomatoes into 1 -2cm cubes, sprinkle over a little salt and put them into a sieve or colander and set them over a bowl to catch the juices. Leave for 15-20 minutes.

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Peel and finely slice the red onion. Massage in a few grains of salt to separate and soften the onion. Peel the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and chop very finely.

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Put the garlic into a small bowl together with the Dijon mustard, vinegar and the juice that has run off from the tomatoes. Whisk these together then drizzle in the olive oil whilst continuing to whisk until you have a creamy emulsion. Stir in the sliced onion.

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Put the tomatoes and dried bread into a bowl – approx. 50/50 of each. (Keep any remaining bread to top other salads or soup). Chop the basil and add to the bowl, pour over the dressing then toss together until well mixed. Leave aside for ten minutes to let the flavours to mingle before serving.

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Eggstraordinary Times

Our chickens have no idea that the covid virus has slowed most of the world down so we have a lot of eggs They are laying like machines, their systems in synch with the daylight hours. The eggs are piling up in baskets on the window sill awaiting a mission in life, Ordinarily we pass these valuable ovoids around our friends but as we have to stay at home we’re having to up our intake.

I’m digging out recipes that use eggs, this is a tasty one.

Indian Style Eggs is a fast and easy dish for brunch or lunch. A kind of a lightly spiced Indian style omelette with salad piled on top. I use garam masala, which is a mix of spices, which have been toasted and ground.

Indian Style Omelette with Salad on Top.

 

2 onions

2tbs ghee or vegetable oil

5 eggs

½ tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala

1 big ripe tomato or a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes

1 green chilli (optional)

a handful of chopped fresh coriander.

 

Peel the onions, cut them in half, then cut into 1cm slices.

Cut the slices into 1 cm pieces.

Heat a frying pan, add the oil or ghee then fry the onions on a medium high heat until they are translucent but still a bit crisp. This will take a few minutes. The onions shouldn’t brown.

Whisk the eggs in bowl together with the salt, then pour over the onions. Give the pan a little shake to mix the eggs and onions together then using a fork, draw the egg mixture that is setting to the middle, repeat this again with the set egg and give the pan a shake to even the ingredients out.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of garam masala over the top then turn the heat to low and cover the omelette with a lid for a couple of minutes, until the top is more or less set. Don’t overcook as the residual heat will make the eggs finish setting.

Dice the tomato/es and season with a little salt. Thinly slice the chilli. Maybe check out how hot it is by testing the end near the stalk. If you find it too hot remove some of the seeds as this is where the heat is. Of course if you don’t like chillies leave the chilli out and maybe substitute chopped spring onion.

Chop the fresh coriander.

Scatter the tomatoes, chilli and coriander over the top of the omelette and eat immediately.


Tomato Party

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The time we have been waiting for all summer has arrived. The tomatoes have ripened and we are enjoying them with nearly everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We grew fifteen varieties of tomatoes this year, all selected for their flavour rather than prolific production or uniform size. The names are curious but in fact somehow apt when you see the fruits –  Bottondoro, Mountain Magic, Fandango, Liguria, Ox Heart, Moon Glow….. They’re all shapes and colours,  red, orange, pink, and yellow .

We let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, this guarantees that they are bursting with flavour and not all picked at once. There’s always a bit of a wait for the tomatoes to ripen but we are usually still picking them in moderation well into the autumn

Each variety has merits, the Bottondoro – orange cherry tomatoes are delicious roasted , we’ve been spooning them onto and over things with a dollop of creme fraiche. The Fandangoes, Ox Hearts and Moonglows have been cut into a chunky dice and consumed with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of  sherry vinegar and salt. They don’t need any fancy treatment.

We ‘ve also made pasta, stews, soups, risottos and most of all ‘pan con tomate’ the Spanish go to breakfast.

Pan con tomate is toast rubbed with a smidgeon of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and tomato which is rubbed on the toast or grated.

Grating tomatoes is a very useful kitchen trick.

Simply take a large ripe tomato, cut it in half and grate it flesh side down, over a bowl, on the coarse side of the grater. The result will be a fresh tomato passata in the bowl and a tomato skin in your hand. Just bin the tomato skin and the tomato is ready to use.

Here is a recipe for a Greek dish, using grated tomato.  Prawns with Ouzo and black olives are the original incarnation but Ouzo which is a Greek aniseed flavoured aperitif can be replaced with whatever you have in the drinks cupboard. I use Pernod but brandy or white wine would work too.

This is delicious mopped up with bread or served with basmati rice or pasta for a main course. Fresh prawns would be the ultimate but uncooked frozen prawns will work too just be sure to dry them well before frying.

Serves 6 for a mezze, 3- 4 for a main course

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Prawns with Ouzo and Black olives

 

500g fresh peeled prawns – not already cooked

75mls olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2-3 large ripe tomatoes – about 500g

a good pinch of dried oregano

a small glass of Ouzo or Pernod

1-2 tbs black olives

salt and black pepper.

chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Peel and finely chop the onion

Peel and finely chop the garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and grate on the coarse side of the grater, holding the skin side. Discard the skins

Dry the prawns on a little kitchen roll.

Heat a small frying pan, add the olive oil then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns just change colour. Lift out of the pan and put aside.

Fry the onions until they begin to soften then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the grated tomatoes, oregano and the ouzo or Pernod. Let the sauce bubble up and reduce for a few minutes. Stir in the prawns and black olives then cook for anther 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

 

 


Fatty Chickpeas

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I have had a packet of dried chickpeas in my pantry for months. A packet that i carried all the way home from Spain but never got around to cooking. Mostly because I forgot to soak them. They are big chickpeas – bigger than the ones we can buy in Ireland by far –  I’d say double in size and delicious when cooked. It may sound mad to get excited about chickpeas but soaked overnight and cooked for 30 minutes they are ready to go, unctuous and creamy, which is quite something. The one’s we buy locally  take three or four times as long  to cook and are like little bullets.

It’s still the holiday season here and we have been valiantly making our way through our veg box which together with the pre-cooked chickpeas offered numerous possibilities for dinner. The winning dish was also a lazy dish. It didn’t take very much effort, more the availability to give the odd stir.

Take time sautéing the veg, they will become sweet and more flavoursome.

 

Chickpea Supper Pot with Almond and Basil Picada

1 onion – peeled and chopped

100mls olive oil

1 carrot – peeled and diced

1 small bulb fennel- sliced into skinny wedges

2 stems celery – diced

3 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped

2 ripe fat tomatoes or 1 can tomatoes – chopped

1 glass white wine (optional)

200mls chickpea liquor or water

2 bay leaves

a handful of parsley

salt and pepper

 

Heat a frying pan or skillet. Add the olive oil and the chopped onions, give them a stir and when they are sizzling  season with a little salt. Stir in the fennel, celery, bay leaf and carrots, give a stir and when the veg are all sizzling season with a little salt then turn the heat to medium/low. Cook, stirring now and then, gently sizzling for ten minutes. Add the chopped garlic then continue cooking for five minutes.

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Add the chopped tomatoes and white wine, bring to the boil then turn to a simmer for ten minutes

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Stir in the chickpeas and cook for a further ten minutes. Add a little chickpea cooking liquor or water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley

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We ate this with a little picada/pesto to drizzle over and crusty bread

Picada

1 small slice bread, crusts removed and cubed

olive oil

15-20 blanched almonds

1 clove garlic

small handful soft green herbs – I used basil but parsley or coriander would work too

salt

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Heat a small pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom and the bread cubes, fry until they begin to go golden then add the almonds. Cook for another couple of minutes.

Putvthe bread/almond mix in a processor together with a clove of garlic then buzz to a crumb.

Add the herbs then drizzle in enough olive oil to make the cicada move. Season with a pinch of salt