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Endless summer

June 19, 2011

We all like to think of winter as a time to indulge in comfort food: boldly flavoured slow braises; soups, stews and ragouts; pies with flaky pastry and fall-apart fillings; Sunday roasts. In my part of the world however, the truth is that we don’t really experience winter, at least in the extreme way we experience summer, and that is reflected in the produce that grows in our climate. Though of course the shorter days and chill in the air pique the appetite for the classic foods of winter, we need not subsist on lamb shanks and turnips alone.

Reflecting the mildness of our winter, our garden is currently full of heirloom tomatos planted at the end of the warm season. I didn’t expect them to thrive, and although they have been slow growing compared to the summer crop, they are prolific to the point that we’re eating them nearly every day.

I was a latecomer to the lure of Pomodoro in their virgin form, previously preferring the shit to be cooked out of them before ingestion. No doubt this was due to the hard, floury, insipid specimens that populated supermarket shelves when I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. The fruity half of the old iceberg lettuce and tomato salad was to be avoided, and literally made me gag. I started coming around when premium ‘vine-ripened’ fruit began to appear in supermarkets.

A delightful revelation took place however when I tried my first organic heirloom tomatoes from The Farm Gate by Nashdale Fruit Co and realised what a tomato is supposed to taste like! These were fruit that I actually wanted to eat unadorned and uncooked. Since then I have embraced the increasing availability of heirloom varieties, recently making friends with a tomato specialist at the local farmers market who helps me select the best fruit.

Most of my fresh tomatoes come out of the garden though and we’re always looking for new ways to prepare them. We had a particularly large harvest last week, and I decided that I wanted to make the tomatoes the star of the meal. As always when I am contemplating a vegetarian recipe I consulted that expansive cookbook, google, to find out what Yotam Ottolenghi, chef, Guardian columnist and author of Plenty, had to say on the matter. This recipe for a (lively, summery) tomato ‘galette’ was just the ticket: it would take advantage of the range of beautiful tomatoes in different hues, and I already had all of the ingredients in the garden/larder. I haven’t cooked with sundried tomatoes much since the 90s, but in this context they provide a great punch of concentrated tomato flavour. You could also substitute pesto or tapenade. I also included some glorious anchovies, which beautifully complement the tomatoes and provide an extra salty hit.

Herbage

Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomato galette

375g all-butter puff pastry

8 stalks fresh oregano, leaves picked and roughly chopped

100g goats’ cheese, crumbled (I used some beautiful Meredith cheese)

450g red, yellow or green tomatoes of various sizes, sliced 2mm thick

8 stalks fresh thyme

8 anchovies (optional)

Olive oil

For the sundried tomato paste

10 sun-dried tomatoes from a jar

2 anchovies (optional)

1 fresh red chilli, sliced

2 garlic cloves

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200c. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick and cut out four rectangles about 10cm x 15cm. Transfer the pastry rectangles to a large baking sheet lined with baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the sun-dried tomato paste, put all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and process to a rough paste; if necessary, add a bit of oil to bring it together.

Spread a thin layer of the tomato paste over the chilled pastry, leaving a border about 1cm from the edge. Sprinkle with the oregano and goats’ cheese, and arrange the tomatoes on top, slightly overlapping but not too precisely. Make sure the tomato paste is covered by fresh tomatoes because it tends to burn. Place two anchovy fillets on the top of each tart. Drop the thyme stalks over the tomatoes and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden on top; check the base to make sure the pastry is brown and fully cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before drizzling over more olive oil and serving warm.

The tart was brilliant, full of flavour and light but satisfying. I served it with a simple salad I knocked up with some roasted beetroot, blanched sugar snap peas and (more) Meredith goats’ cheese. Colourful and flavourful food to brighten up a winter’s day.

My kind of salad

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma in Sydney permalink
    June 20, 2011 06:54

    Yum! Unfortunately, all we can find in the shops in Sydney are those crispy pale orange abominations, so this will have to wait till summer. You had better repost this in December, I reckon.

  2. June 20, 2011 13:02

    Yes, I’m with Emma. Tomatoes up here at the moment are horrific. Gotta love Ottolenghi, he is the go to man for veggie madness.

  3. June 24, 2011 18:51

    Thank you so much for being you, you have the best photos and the most interesting blog. Your love of all things decadent is an inspiration, must buy some of those tomatoes off you.
    Warm regards, Sharron

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