It was nothing short of a glut. Admittedly not quite the proportions of the EU butter mountain in the 1970’s, but nonetheless a sizeable surplus that, whilst immensely satisfying to harvest, was far beyond the capability of any ‘normal’ person or persons to consume on a daily basis! So, when life does indeed give you tomatoes then there really is only one option ………. make TOMATO SOUP!!
I grew three varieties this year. The ever reliable ‘Gardeners Delight’, an immensely flavoursome ‘Sungold’ & finally, with a high sugar content, ‘Sweet Aperitif’.
As well as these three reliable ‘doers’, I am always on the look out to grow new and unusual varieties. Last week I was able to indulge in a long overdue revisit to The Eden Project, Cornwall and a fab feature in the Mediterranean Biome was an area planted with seasonal Mediterranean produce – so much colour, flavour & fragrance to delight the senses! It included some unusual tomato varieties which can be grown quite happily in a greenhouse in the UK so I may give one or two of them a go next year.
A few that caught my attention were:
- Tomato ‘Indigo Rose’ – an unusual new deep purple variety rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin C
- Tomato ‘Cream Sausage’ – a firm creamy, yellow flesh with very little liquid and so perfect for salsa
- Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’ – perfect for drying either outside or more likely, in the oven, in the UK
I make a conscious decision to grow organically, peat free & sustainably. I do lose stuff to pests & disease but it’s just so much kinder to our environment, our precious pollinators, local wildlife as well as my four bantam hens & of course my kids. Dalefoot peat free composts are just amazing as is their business ethos & their mixes are a great supplement to my own erratic efforts at making compost. All irrigation is amply sourced from three large water butts attached to the greenhouse, organic seaweed feeds & my ever magical garlic water & beer traps keep black-fly and slugs at bay. Pea sticks haphazardly arranged across my raised veg beds are the perfect barrier to my free roaming hens but quite frankly given the bountiful harvest this summer, both in the greenhouse as well as the kitchen garden there really is enough to feed every creature that happens to take a fancy to my horticultural efforts!
All three varieties are used in my basic tomato sauce recipe alongside other stars from my fledgling kitchen garden:
- Red & white onions
The only other additions to the recipe are a locally sourced cold pressed Rapeseed oil & a good quality balsamic vinegar. Where balsamic is concerned cheap stuff just doesn’t cut the mustard – too acidic. I use Danilo Marco Grand Reserva which I buy from Delilah’s, a fab deli located in Leicester & Nottingham.
This simple, light, fresh tomato sauce is incredibly versatile & I have listed a few ways in which I use it a little further on in this blog. Although a bit time consuming make the effort to pass it through a sieve at the end to remove the skins & seeds to leave a smooth, velvety sauce – it really does make all the difference!
MY BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
- 1.5kg very ripe tomatoes, halved if very large
- 3 medium white/red onions, roughly chopped
- 50ml rapeseed oil
- 50ml water
- 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 tablespoons tomato purée
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- A few sprigs of oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- A handful of freshly torn basil leaves
- Freshly ground salt and black pepper
- Add the rapeseed oil to a large pan or jam kettle on a medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes. Tip in the tomatoes, water, caster sugar, tomato purée and bring to a simmer. Add the balsamic vinegar, oregano, bay leaves then season with a generous pinch of salt and freshly black pepper. Simmer for approximately 30-45mins until the pulp has softened and the skins come away easily.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Using a hand blender, carefully blitz the tomatoes until relatively smooth.
- Ladle the sauce into a sieve placed over a large bowl and pass it through by pressing down with the back of a spoon.
- Allow to cool fully and store in containers to whatever portion size suits and freeze immediately.
CLAMS IN A TOMATO SAUCE
My favourite way to use my base tomato sauce is with clams. A simple supper in less than 15mins. The pics below are from my efforts this week using fresh Cornish clams. This recipe serves 6.
- 2kg fresh clams, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 100ml double cream
- 8 tablespoons dry white wine
- 400ml of basic tomato sauce (see above)
- Chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add shallots and garlic to soften for a few minutes.
- Turn up the heat & add the wine.
- Empty in the clams and cover with a lid. Allow to steam for 5 minutes or so until the clams have opened.
- Remove the clams to a bowl, discarding any unopened ones and turn up the heat. Reduce the liquor by half. Add the cream.
- Add the tomato sauce and season to taste.
- Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Add the clams back to the pan to warm through and serve immediately with spaghetti or simply with warm crusty fresh bread to mop up the juices.
AND MORE ………….
With the addition of a couple of tablespoons of double cream you have a rich, creamy delicious tomato soup. I have also used it as a base for a tasty pasta bake. Slice up some breast from a roast chicken & toss in the sauce. Add in some cooked pasta of your choice plus some roughly torn buffalo mozerella. freshly milled black pepper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Perfect as a mid week supper served simply with rocket and a homemade crunchy slaw.
Finally this colourful side dish delivers a true taste of summer. In an ovenproof dish simply roast ripe tomatoes with quarters of red onion, crushed garlic, a drizzle of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar plus some torn mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve warm or cold.
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