You say tomato
However you might pronounce it, there’s no arguing with these tempting tomato recipes, says Simon Hopkinson
WHEN folk talk of an Indian summer, they’ll usually be referring to an unusually kind September, sunshine-wise. This benign, seasonal tailing-off can often produce the most wonderful raspberries, particularly from north of the border, as well as a bumper crop of English tomatoes further south.
If the latter was the case, our—how shall we say it— parsimonious paternal grandfather would even pass on a few of his unexpectedly late greenhouse bumper crop to his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. And ‘few’ was the key word, here.
Anyway, parsimony aside, they were always wonderful, these tomatoes, so scented and full of flavour that I can still smell them now; that tiny, yet special and memorable moment when you ripped out the stalk.
At home, these treasures would, most often, be simply prepared thus: white-skinned onions (so difficult to find, these days), thinly sliced with Dad’s surgeon-like precision, then lightly salted, peppered and piled into a shallow dish.
The tomatoes, first carefully cored, were given a similar treatment, then piled upon the onions and put to rest for an hour or so in the pantry, covered with a damp tea towel. Once each of the two components had ‘wept’, they were quietly tumbled together, sprinkled with malt vinegar (Sarson’s, usually) and piled into a new, clean and perhaps prettier platter.
Finally, just before serving, the whole would be liberally scattered with an equal mix of finely chopped parsley and apple mint, gathered from the garden minutes before—usually, by yours truly. And that was it. Olive oil? Don’t be silly—this was 1960, for heaven’s sake!
I occasionally make that salad to this day; it’s the malt vinegar that I particularly love and I would never use something more correct, culinary wise, for this dear old treat. The ‘brewed condiment’ will always have its place in my kitchen, just as much as the best vinegar made from wine. Each has its place.
Not too long ago, I came home with some exceptionally good fish and chips from a local purveyor and, not wishing to sodden them in the shop with a dousing of vinegar (I like a lot), I decided to bring them home still fresh and crisp.
Imagine my kitchen dilemma when I discovered that all I had in the cupboard was a fine Chardonnay vinegar and a slightly sweet Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar; both very good indeed, but not Sarson’s. I splashed the Chardonnay all over and hoped for the best, but, two bites later, the whole lot went in the bin. I’ve never been without the trusty malt since.
There’s not even a squirt of soured wine in the following recipes, but they are, possibly, two of the sweetest little tomato dishes I know.
‘These tomatoes were so scented and full of flavour that I can still smell them now