In the red: Mark Hix cooks with juicy, late-summer tomatoes

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Most of the tomatoes bought in the UK have, until quite recently, been imported – and they can vary from being pretty good to tasteless. Our home growers seem to be getting more enthusiastic these days, though, and are producing some great fruits including some unusual forgotten heritage varieties. This gives us tomato lovers great scope to create some simple late-summer tomato recipes. When you have a lovely ingredient like a tomato, you really don't need to do too much to it initially, except dress it with a good oil and vinegar, or add another simple ingredient, such as basil.

Even an abundance of tomatoes is not a problem as they can yield a variety of interesting dishes – and if you get stuck with under-ripe fruits, these too can be put to good use like chutneys and relishes. Alternatively, try slicing and deep frying under-ripe green tomatoes in a scrumpy batter – perfect for a starter, snack or as an accompanying side dish.

Veal sirloin with stewed tomatoes and pesto

Serves 4

We have been using a lot of Irish "rose" veal this year, mainly from Jack O'Shea who has a butcher's shop in London's Knightsbridge and runs the butchery counter in Selfridges Food Hall. His veal comes from County Wicklow; our other supplier is further north – Ben Weatherall, who provides Scottish Brymore veal.

I've gently cooked down a selection of tomatoes here to create a nice chunky tomato sauce. You could serve this with chicken, pork or a robust fish – or even serve it as it is, as a side dish or starter.

4 veal sirloins, weighing about 150-200g each
Vegetable or corn oil for brushing
4 medium shallots, peeled, halved and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A few sprigs of oregano or marjoram
4tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
350-400g tomatoes (assorted varieties)

For the pesto

20g pine nuts, lightly toasted
50-60g fresh basil leaves and any soft stalks
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of sea salt
3tbsp freshly grated Parmesan or mature pecorino
100-120ml extra virgin olive oil (preferably a sweeter olive oil)

First make the pesto: put the pine nuts, basil, garlic and salt in a liquidiser and coarsely blend. Add the cheese and blend again briefly, then transfer to bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the shallots, garlic and oregano for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into even-sized chunks and add to the shallots. Season, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes, giving the occasional stir, until the tomatoes have softened. Re-season if necessary and keep warm with the lid on.

Meanwhile, heat a ribbed griddle, barbecue or heavy frying pan and brush with the vegetable oil. Season the veal and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, keeping them nice and pink.

To serve, spoon the tomatoes on to warmed serving dishes, slice the veal and lay on top; spoon the pesto on to the veal.

Clear tomato soup with freshwater crayfish and wild fennel

Serves 4-6

You might imagine this is a tricky dish to execute, but it's simple, really. This year, I've discovered a regular supply of crayfish on a stretch of the River Kennet. I was starting to worry that my campaign to cull the signal crayfish (which, since its introduction to British waters has threatened to wipe out our native species) had gone a bit too far, but sure enough there are still plenty around to enjoy.

You can also serve this soup with crab, lobster or simply some diced-up tomatoes.

1.5kg ripe tomatoes, halved
2 cloves of garlic, blanched in water for 2 minutes
300ml good-quality tomato juice
A few sprigs of basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 leaves of gelatine (9g)
1kg live freshwater crayfish
1tbsp fennel seeds
A few sprigs of wild fennel or dill

Coarsely blend the tomatoes, garlic and basil in a food processor with some freshly ground black pepper and salt and 250ml of the tomato juice.

Line a colander with double muslin or a clean tea towel and rest over a large bowl. Pour the tomato pulp in and put in the fridge overnight. The next day you should have about 600-700ml of clear juice; gently squeeze the pulp to extract as much juice as possible.

Soak 3 leaves of gelatine in cold water until soft. Meanwhile, remove a small ladleful of the clear tomato juice and heat in a pan. Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and stir them into the hot tomato juice until dissolved. Don't boil it. Add this to the rest of the juice, add the remaining tomato juice, stir well and put in the fridge for 1-2 hours until set.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil with the fennel seeds and plenty of salt and plunge in the crayfish; bring to the boil, simmer for 3 minutes, then drain in a colander and leave to cool. Carefully peel the tails and crack the claws if they are large. Don't throw the shells away as they will make a good bisque.

To serve, break the jelly up a little then spoon into serving bowls and scatter on the crayfish and fennel.

Squid, heritage tomato and garden herb salad

Serves 4

Squid is such a versatile fish and shouldn't just end up deep-fried in batter (though I do have a bit of a soft spot for calamares a la romana). You can use a selection of fragrant herbs from the garden such as mint, lovage, basil, coriander and sorrel to create this perfect, easy-to-prepare and refreshing starter. My friend Hieu at London's Cay Tre restaurant does a Vietnamese version of this with Asian herbs which is equally simple.

400-450g mixed tomatoes
400g squid, cleaned and cut into rough 3cm pieces
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of garden herb leaves: basil, mint, lovage, flat parsley, sorrel
3-4tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
The juice of half a medium lemon, or more if required
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, some wedges and some chunks, depending on the sizes of the tomatoes. Mix the tomatoes in a bowl with the herbs, rapeseed oil and lemon juice and season. Preheat a ribbed griddle or heavy frying pan and lightly oil it, season the squid and cook briefly on the griddle for about 30-40 seconds on each side, then transfer to the bowl with the tomatoes and mix well. Arrange on serving plates.

Golden tomatoes with feta, olives and basil

Serves 4

Golden tomatoes are now quite common in good supermarkets and greengrocers and can be used to make a great starter for a dinner party. I've been growing the small-leaved Greek or bush basil: it's much more robust and easier to grow than the larger-leaved variety and keeps going through the summer, however much you snip and trim it.

4-6 large ripe golden tomatoes
16 or so good-quality black olives
150-160g good-quality feta cheese (at room temperature)
A few sprigs of Greek basil
A couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into cm-thick slices and arrange on individual serving dishes (or 1 large one) and lightly season. Break the feta into chunks and arrange on the tomatoes with the black olives. Spoon over the olive oil and scatter the basil over.

Mark Hix will be signing copies of his latest book, 'British Seasonal Food', at the Melplash Agricultural Society Show at Bridport, Dorset, on 27 August

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