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Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Yesterday  (September 1st and officially the first day of autumn for the Met office) our neighbour Alice–beekeeping teacher–arrived with a basket of summertime goodies.

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She and Meredith had been collecting honey from her many hives and our ONE in the garden.

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There has been precious little “summertime” this year, so the honey harvest is modest

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and the basket a reminder of what might have been–peches de vignes, tomatoes and delightful looking little red chilis, the last–”tres forts–attention!” warned  Alice.

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This year our tomatoes were “carried off“–as they used to say about people who caught the plague–by mildew.

According to Alice, this has happened to many gardeners–but not to her tomatoes because she saw the signs and acted to stop the rot.

The unusually wet weather with little drying sunshine is the cause.

Result–in our case–a quick demise of the entire crop; we were away when the plague struck.

Alice advised keeping a few seeds from the largest tomato, for planting next year which we’ve done, but not before a bit of coarse “look at the size of it!” acting.

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It’s now in the fridge–a tasty sauce waiting its turn in the limelight, which maybe tonight as part of the stuffing for one of its cousins.

 

 

 

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Meredith and I have eaten this a thousand times, usually on a Sunday evening–our once-a-week pasta night.

It is from the matchless Marcella Hazan and is probably my favourite pasta dish of all time–comfort food par excellence!

What makes it so delicious is the anchovies–controversial little fish–not to everyone’s taste.

Here they deepen the taste without dominating.

The ones preserved in salt are best–they dissolve more readily than those in preserved in oil–but it’s a business preparing them for cooking.

Since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes we have eaten wholewheat pasta and now we prefer it–it’s on the shelves of most supermarkets these days.

How al dente it’s cooked is a matter of taste.

In Italy you’d think it was an arrestable offence to overcook pasta–they cook it very al dente and it makes for agreeably slower eating.

for 4

2 medium cloves garlic–chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil

anchovy fillets–chopped fine and pounded into a paste in a mortar with a pestle if you have one

2 good tablespoons parsley–chopped

400 gm tin of tomatoes–chopped with their juice

salt & pepper 

400 gms wholewheat spaghettini

  • Lightly sauté the garlic in small saucepan until it colours.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the anchovies and parsley– stirring well to dissolve them into the oil
  • Add the tomatoes, the salt and pepper.
  • Cook at a steady simmer for about twenty five minutes, stirring regularly.
  • When ready the sauce will have an unctious consistency and a little pool of oil on top.
  • Cook the spaghettini in plenty of well salted boiling water.
  • Test for your preferred “doneness”.
  • Drain, put in a heated bowl and add the sauce.
  • Mix well and serve.

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We had these last night with quinoa, plain green beans, and garlicky yogurt sauce.

It’s adapted from a recipe by Rick Stein–known as the uncrowned king of Cornwall.

When we were filming Poldark in Cornwall 35 years ago, eating out in the county was very different from what we experienced last weekend and Rick Stein has a lot to do with it.  His fish restaurants in Padstow have set a benchmark. Things have improved!

We tried to reserve a table at one of Rick’s places a couple of weeks before our trip but they were all booked–sad for us but “Hooray” for Cornwall!

for 2+

500gms/1lb aubergines–cut up into smallish pieces (quicker to sauté), lightly salted and left in a sieve or colander for an hour to drain off their liquid, then dried ready for the pan. (This seems tedious to do but they absorb less oil this way.)

4 tablespoons olive oil

1” square piece of fresh ginger--chopped fine

3 garlic cloves–pulped with half a teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of water

2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds–crushed

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

500gms/1lb tomatoes–chopped with their juice (or use tinned)

3 more tablespoons of water

  • whizz the ginger and garlic in a tablespoon of water to form a loose paste.
  • heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan that you can cover.
  • when hot, add a single layer of  the dry aubergine pieces.
  • turn them in the oil and sauté on all sides until nicely browned–a pair of cooking tongs comes in handy here–then set aside. (It’s worth taking your time to make sure the aubergine is cooked through.)
  • continue the process until all the aubergine pieces are cooked, adding more oil as needed.
  • let the pan cool a little before heating two tablespoons of oil and adding the fennel and cumin seeds.
  • let them colour for a few seconds before adding the ginger and garlic paste.
  • cook this gently for a minute or two before adding the coriander, turmeric and chili powder.
  • cook this gently for a minute before adding the tomatoes and the extra water.
  • turn the lovely looking mix over and cook on a low heat for ten minutes to form a sauce.
  • add the aubergine pieces turning everything over thoroughly before covering the pan and cooking for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
  • test the doneness of the aubergines, cooking them a little more if necessary, adding a little more water if  needed.
  • check the seasoning and sprinkle some chopped mint, fresh coriander, or parsley over the dish before serving.

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"Rentrée" gifts

I’m sitting searching for a new recipe for the chicken we’ll eat tonight when I hear a car draw up.

Life in the country is never predictable–especially when you hope it might be for a few quiet minutes!

The bell outside the courtyard gently rings and footsteps slowly crunch across the gravel.

I put down the cookbook and reluctantly rise to greet the visitor.

There is the lightest knock on the front door.

There stands our neighbour Alice, holding a small rectangular box with 2 kilos of her honey in it.

Honey box

She says it’s only fair she shares some with her “second pair of hands”.

Meredith helped  with the recolte [harvest] of her honey on Monday.

“The honey’s runny–better keep it a plat [flat],”  she says of the harvest. “there was more last year–but not bad nevertheless….”

A spoonful of the honey with a tablespoon of the organic cider vinegar from Thursday’s market will help shore up our health as the seasons change.

Of more interest to me is the small basket of tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes that Alice holds in her other hand–could make a wonderful ratatouille.

Ratatouille basket

“These are probably the last”, Alice says, “in spite of constant watering things have dried up–so enjoy these while you can”.

Too right, Alice–superb! Merci beaucoup!

(And I did nothing to deserve it!)

Talk of the season change persuades me to try the chicken cooked with dried porcini mushrooms (bought last November in Tuscany) tonight.

Recipe to follow–if we like it!

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It’s  “summer“–though it felt more like March this weekend.

(“We had our summer in May,” said my egg supplier in the market early Saturday morning.)

It’s the busy season of guests–and the unexpected.

It was brighter Sunday morning and we took our visitors from Washington D.C., Irv and Iris, to Lautrec for lunch with two other friends.

Café Plum  (charming bookstore/café, a touch of the Left Bank in Lautrec) was finding it a challenge being popular.

A table of twelve had just ordered when we arrived.

We waited twenty minutes, and then were told, politely, it would be another twenty if we wanted to eat!

The six of us decided a salad in the courtyard chez nous might be a better bet–though we might be chasing the sun.

Iris and I got back first.

“Shall I make a tomato salad?”

“Good idea,” I said.

Iris and Meredith had picked some of our tomatoes Saturday evening–five varieties–for  a taste test.

Plenty were ripe, despite the weather. (Do they get tired of waiting for the sun and say to themselves: “time to go red?“.)

They cut them up in bite-size chunks and arranged them on a pretty plate with salt & olive oil for the sampling.

Delicious!”– though some were sweeter than others.

Certainly good enough for a quickly improvised salad.

To go with the sweet tomatoes, Iris found black olives and buffalo mozzarella in the fridge, added some torn basil, thinly sliced red onion and sunflower seeds (dry roasted).

She dressed this good-looking mix with Tuscan olive oil (Liquid Gold) made by our friends, Keith & Helen.

We had it with tuna salad (A saucy tuna lunch for two), slices of melon and Parma ham, followed by local cheese.

We poured out more of our favourite everyday red– Gaillac’s Clément Termes and continued the animated chat.

Next time we go Café Plum we’ll make sure we pip “the party of twelve” to the post!

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