You say tomato

How­ever you might pro­nounce it, there’s no ar­gu­ing with these tempt­ing tomato recipes, says Si­mon Hop­kin­son

Country Life Every Week - - Simon’s Kitchen - 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

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