A decent, well- flavoured tom-ato always reminds me of my Grandad Bill, who used to alternate between growing tomatoes and growing chrysanthemums in his greenhouse. I would always help him remove all the earwigs from the heads of chrysanthemums and nip the little extra shoots out off the tomatoes to encourage the main fruit to grow.
Grandad used to grow just one variety of tomato, the common round, red variety called "moneymaker". That didn't matter, though – they tasted absolutely lovely. Like most things, it's all about how they are grown, the compost, the manure and the careful pruning process.
I can remember his friends and neighbours coming around to buy a pound or two as his yields were pretty big and Gran didn't really go in for preserves very much. If only I knew then what I know now, we'd have been eating chutney the whole year around.
Kieran's Spiced tomato chutney
Makes 1/2 litre
One of our 19-year-old Hix academy students, Kieran Thaper, made this simple and tasty chutney, which he served with his main course in the end-of-year student competition.
Kieran used cherry tomatoes in his chutney but was only making a very small quantity, so if you are making a few jars, using larger tomatoes will make life a bit easier.
12-15 firm tomatoes
2tsp dried chilli flakes
150ml white wine or cider vinegar
120g caster sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of water to the boil, make a criss-cross on the top of the tomatoes and blanche them for 10-12 seconds then drain and quickly plunge them into cold water. Drain off, then carefully remove the skin, cut them in half and squeeze out as many of the seeds as you can. Chop the flesh into rough 1cm chunks.
Put the chilli flakes, vinegar and sugar in a pan, heat and stir until dissolved. Add the tomatoes, season and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring as it's cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. If it's still a bit liquidy, turn the heat up a little and continue cooking.
Fill a sterilised kilner or preserving jar with the hot chutney and close the lid. Leave to cool and store in the fridge for up to six months.
Jellied tomato and cucumber soup with crayfish
This looks like a complicated thing to make but it's actually simple. If you have access to crayfish – which you can order at your fishmonger – you can make a great bisque from the shells or you could use cooked prawns or scampi instead.
800g ripe tomatoes, halved
300ml good quality tomato juice
1 cucumber, roughly chopped (save a 3-4 cm piece for the garnish)
A few sprigs of basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 leaves of gelatine (9g)
For the garnish
12 crayfish or prawns, cooked and peeled
3-4cm cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into ½ cm dice
1 large tomato, skinned, seeded and the flesh cut into ½ cm dice
2tsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2tbsp rapeseed oil
Coarsely blend the tomatoes, cucumber and basil in a food processor with some freshly ground black pepper and salt and the tomato juice.
Line a colander with double muslin, or a clean tea towel, and place over a large bowl. Pour the pulp into the colander and leave overnight in the fridge to drain. The next day you should have about 600-700ml of clear juice in the bowl. Gently squeeze the pulp to extract as much juice as possible.
Soak 3 leaves of gelatine (4 leaves if you have closer to a litre of juice) in cold water until soft. Meanwhile remove a small ladleful of the clear juice and heat it in a pan. Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and stir them into the hot juice until dissolved. Don't boil it. Add this to the rest of the juice, stir well and put into the fridge for one to two hours until set.
Mix the tomato and cucumber with the chives and rapeseed oil, season. Give the lightly jellied juice a brief stir to break it up, and transfer into chilled bowls. Pour tomato mixture into the centre, scatter the crayfish around and serve.
Lamb and tomato curry
It's worth making a batch of the roasted curry spices used here and keeping them in a kilner jar in your larder.
Try to get neck of lamb or better still mutton fillet for this dish as it doesn't dry when you cook it for long periods.
For the roasted curry spices
1tbsp fenugreek seeds
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tbsp fenugreek leaves
1tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp dried chilli powder
½tbsp caraway seeds
½tbsp nigella seeds
1tbsp mustard seeds
½tbsp podded cardamon seeds (the black seeds inside the green pods)
1tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cinnamon
Grind all the spices in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar. Then mix them with the already-ground spices and sprinkle into a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly and not letting them burn, until they turn dark brown. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool, then store in a sealed jar.
For the curry
1kg lamb neck fillet, cut into rough 3-4cm chunks
2 medium red onions, peeled, halved and chopped into rough 1cm dice
4 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small piece of root ginger (30g), scraped and finely grated
2-3 red or green chillies, thinly sliced
A good pinch of saffron
1tbsp curry leaves
75g ghee (or a half oil/half butter mix)
2tbsp roasted curry powder (see above)
2tbsp tomato purée
500ml lamb or beef stock, made from a good stock cube is fine
6 plum tomatoes, quartered
A few sprigs of coriander,roughly chopped
Gently cook the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, saffron and curry leaves in two thirds of the ghee for three to four minutes, until soft. Add the curry spices and tomato purée and stir well. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend a fifth of the sauce in a liquidiser, until nice and smooth, then return to the pan on a low heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Heat the remaining ghee in a frying pan, season the lamb and fry until lightly coloured. Add to the sauce and simmer gently for about an hour or so, or until tender, topping up with water or more stock as it's cooking. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the coriander and simmer for another couple of minutes.
Serve with basmati rice and scatter with the sprigs of coriander. µ
Wild food week, Hix Mayfair, 28 Sept - 4 Oct; hixmayfair.co.uk
Dartmouth Food Festival, 23-25 Oct; dartmouthfoodfestival.com
Padstow Christmas Festival, 3-6 Dec; padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk
From curries to soups, make the most of the season's tomato crop
If you have access to crayfish, you can make a great bisque from the shells