Three ways with ... toma­toes

The hot-house ver­sion just doesn’t com­pare to the real deal of high sum­mer, says Lucy Corry.

The Press - Zest - - Eat -

In Au­gust, when Welling­ton was vis­ited by the twin gods of hor­i­zon­tal rain and hail, a clus­ter of cherry toma­toes glowed in a tiny cor­ner of my gar­den. The toma­toes, like en­chanted fruit from a fairy­tale, were sweet and full of flavour, a lit­tle mir­a­cle in the grey­ness of win­ter.

They were a re­minder that hot­house toma­toes, for all their good looks, can never beat the real thing.

Un­less you have the same sort of magic win­ter-fruit­ing plant as we do, now’s the time to get your tomato fix.

1. HERBY TOMATO CHILLI BR­USCHETTA

Serves 2-4 as a starter or canape Prepa­ra­tion: 10 min­utes Cooking: 5 min­utes Years ago I was com­pletely ad­dicted to the tomato br­uschetta at an oth­er­wise un­re­mark­able Ital­ian restau­rant in Hamil­ton.

Time has blurred my ex­act mem­ory, but this is as close as I can get to recre­at­ing it. 8-10 1cm-thick slices cia­batta 1⁄ cup ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

4 2 cups sliced toma­toes – a mix­ture of colours and sizes is good 3⁄ fresh herbs (a mix­ture of basil,

4 co­rian­der and mint), finely chopped 1 tea­spoon finely chopped fresh chilli 1 clove gar­lic, peeled 1⁄ cup cream cheese, at room

4 tem­per­a­ture Heat the grill or a heavy ridged grill pan. Brush the cia­batta slices with a lit­tle of the oil and grill un­til light brown.

Put the toma­toes, herbs, chilli and about a ta­ble­spoon of the oil in a bowl and mix gen­tly.

Cut the clove of gar­lic in half and rub it over the grilled bread.

Spread a lit­tle cream cheese on each slice of cia­batta then pile the tomato mix­ture on top.

Sea­son with lots of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per and serve.

2. TOMATO AND RED ONION SALAD

Serves 4 Prepa­ra­tion: 10 min­utes, plus 40 min­utes’ mar­i­nat­ing Cooking: nil This salad is some­thing my hus­band used to make a cou­ple of years ago. It has taken me a long time to as­cer­tain ex­act mea­sure­ments to be able to make this my­self to his stan­dards.

It’s a re­fresh­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment to any kind of meat and carb fest, es­pe­cially a bar­be­cue. 2 red onions, thinly sliced 1⁄ tea­spoon flaky sea salt

2 1⁄ cup red wine vine­gar

4 1⁄ cup ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

4 2 ta­ble­spoons ca­pers 4 large beef­steak toma­toes, cut into chunks hand­ful of flat-leafed pars­ley, chopped Put the red onions, salt, red wine vine­gar and oil in a serv­ing bowl and stir well.

Cover and set aside for 30 min­utes (up to an hour is fine).

Stir in the ca­pers and toma­toes, then grind over lots of black pep­per.

Let sit for an­other 10 min­utes, then scat­ter over the pars­ley and serve.

3. TOF­FEE CHERRY TOMA­TOES

Serves 4 as a con­ver­sa­tion-start­ing canape Prepa­ra­tion: 5 min­utes Cooking: 10 min­utes I’m not sure this is the best way to get chil­dren to eat veg­eta­bles, but it’s still rather fun. Stab each one with a cock­tail stick to amp up the mini tof­fee ap­ple vibe. 3⁄ cup caster sugar

4 3⁄ tea­spoon bal­samic vine­gar

4 3⁄ tea­spoon but­ter

4 1⁄ tea­spoon cream of tar­tar

8 2 cups tiny cherry toma­toes, washed, dried Line a bak­ing tray with non-stick bak­ing pa­per. Put the sugar, vine­gar, but­ter and 2 ta­ble­spoons boil­ing wa­ter in a small saucepan.

Stir well, then set over medium heat and keep stir­ring un­til the sugar dis­solves. Add the cream of tar­tar, then bring to the boil with­out stir­ring.

Half-fill a cup with cold wa­ter and have it be­side the stove. Af­ter the mix­ture has been boil­ing for 5 min­utes, drop a small amount of tof­fee into the cold wa­ter. If it forms a shape that can be snapped with a crack, it’s ready. Keep try­ing this ev­ery cou­ple of min­utes – it won’t take long. (If you have a candy ther­mome­ter, it needs to hit 140C.)

Re­move the saucepan from the heat and dip the toma­toes in, rolling them around to en­sure a good coat­ing of tof­fee. Scoop them out and leave to set on the tray. Th­ese are best eaten soon af­ter mak­ing – do not re­frig­er­ate.

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