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Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Today I’m dedicating this post to a very special sauce, something I think pasta must be proud to wear and something I think all cooking fans should be able to make well. Traditionally reserved for special occasions or Sunday best, a good ragù requires love and attention but won’t mind if you enjoy a glass of wine and a good book while you tend to its needs. During my time in Italy I ate some spectacular ragùs and it seems that every cook has their own special twist. One particularly fond memory I have is of sitting in a cozy restaurant in the hilltop town of Urbino on a bitterly cold January day. We sat huddled around a table trying to warm up our frozen hands and tucked into large plates of paparadelle with deeply flavoured wild boar ragù. After that meal I felt revived and full, ready to venture back out into the icy wind. Duck ragù feels doubly special for me since, in my kitchen, duck is reserved for special occasions and is a rare treat. It’s also something I feel a bit afraid of cooking in case a make a mess of things and spoil such lovely meat. My mum objects to eating duck on ‘moral grounds’ ever since she adopted a Mallard as a child; growing up I shared her view until I discovered how tasty they are so now I’m making up for lost time!

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Last week my mum and I went on a last-minute city break to Avignon where we indulged in sunshine, shopping and lots and lots of beautiful food. Since coming back I’ve been on a Provençal cooking kick having been overloaded with inspiration on our mini holiday. Just wandering around the wonderful indoor market is enough to make you want to sell up and move to France: the stalls were overflowing with all manner of heirloom tomatoes; tiny, round green and yellow courgettes; plump purple- and white-flecked aubergines; strings of garlic; fat bundles of fresh herbs and about 20 types of onion. The delis had big bowls of ratatouille to take home and reheat alongside stuffed tomatoes, rabbit stew, individual egg and vegetable flans and roasted meats. Hams and whole salamis hung above mountains of olives and the boulanger oppostie sold crunchy, fresh sourdough bread, fougasse studded with nuts and apple tart by the slice. Other displays contained jewel-like candied fruits, macarons and iced, almond-shaped Calissons from nearby Aix. (more…)

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For several years before I got married, my mum and I took summer holidays together, sometimes inviting my brother or my now husband to join us for a week or two. Our holidays always went along the same lines, observing our family traditions. We would rent a gite somewhere in rural France – Lac d’Annecy, Brittany, Normandy, Corsica – and spend our time visiting nearby markets, walking, having long relaxed breakfasts in the morning sun and cooking the sort of dishes that she and I love. Stuffed tomatoes is one such dish and would appear at least once or twice per holiday in various guises.

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Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and fruitful 2012!

New year brings with it a fresh round of resolutions and a recommitment to healthy eating after all that festive indulgence. I’d like to shift the few pounds I’ve gained over the last fortnight but I’m in no particular hurry to dive into salads and raw veggies whilst I’m still in duvet and snuggly hoodie mode. I want comfort food that’s guilt free and tasty to warm and fill me up after I’ve been out in the driving rain playing with my shiny new running watch. I have five months to train for my first ever half marathon but my dedication to yummy food is not going to waver.

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I suspect this harvest of late tomatoes is my garden’s last hurrah as it dies down for winter. I’m holding out for a few more warm, sunny days to ripen some of the abundant green tomatoes before I start thinking about making chutney and hopefully we’ll have a few pickings from the rainbow chard from the window box. This year was such a mish mash of buying young plants and growing from seed that I’ve forgotten which varieties I have. There are certainly some small Marmandes and Gardener’s Delight, maybe a Shirely or two, but I’ve no idea what the little yellow ones are. They certainly look pretty sitting on my worktop. (more…)

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I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the greengrocer this morning; after a long winter of muddy roots the fresh spring fruit and veg is brightening up the shelves. Fresh peas, plump strawberries and wiry asparagus were piled high and a big box of locally-grown baby plum tomatoes had pride of place by the door. I took my time browsing and left with my bag overflowing with goodies, including plenty of those shiny, red tomatoes.

 

As a devoted fan of the wonderful Nigel Slater I often turn to his books, articles and shows for inspiration. He is a keen gardener which is probably why he creates so many simple but stunning recipes for vegetables. I was sure he’d have something perfect for my haul and so he did. This fab and speedy recipe is not your usual tomato sauce; rather than roasting or sauteing the tomatoes, you char them under the grill making them smokey and sweet. I tweeked the original a little;  I also happened to buy some gorgeous wood-smoked garlic that was begging me to join in the fun. If you can find some, pop it in, you’ll be glad you did!

 

A handful of fresh herbs, some melty mozzarella and the first of the home-grown salad made my morning’s shopping into a fantastic light dinner. But there’s no need to stop there, this sauce would be lovely on bruschetta or made on the barbeque.

 

Smokey tomato sauce

Lightly tweeked from Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers

  • 15-20 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic (smoked if available)
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of wine vinegar or a teaspoon of sugar if necessary
  • fresh basil
  • a ball of mozzarella, torn into small bits

Pre-heat the grill to the highest setting. Meanwhile halve the tomatoes and arrange in a baking pan deep enough to catch the juices. Slice the garlic and tuck underneath the tomatoes.

Drizzle over some olive oil, scatter over thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Pop under the grill until charred*.

Roughly mash the tomatoes with a fork and taste. Add vinegar if too sweet or sugar if too sour. Stir in the basil and mozzarella and serve immediately.

*This took about 15 mins in my rather slow grill, start them before the pasta and check regularly.

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