I reckon that commercial tomato growing in the UK may be about to make a bit of a comeback. We've seen so many imported tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes over the years, and now British farmers are slowly but surely coming round to the fact that the time is ripe for a revival of this once cherished British fruit.
I remember a couple of years ago visiting Kevin Herve, who grows his 'Harmony Heritage' tomatoes in Jersey, and I was really inspired by his selection of tasty tommies – naturally pollinated by bees, which he buys in and lets loose in his greenhouses.
Our native fruit and vegetable growing business used to thrive down in East Sussex, which supplied Covent Garden and Spitalfields on a daily basis. Now our tomato harvest hardly exists, as we can buy crops from all over the world, all year round.
Slow roast beef tomato with goat's curd and pickled walnuts
Semi drying or slow roasting tomatoes can change and intensify the flavour of some of the occasionally bland imported tomatoes we are subjected to in our shops and supermarkets.
I've used goat's curd here which is a mild and creamy, delicious fresh curd cheese that is similar to cream cheese, and with a low fat content, available in some specialist cheese and dairy shops, such as Neal's Yard (www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk), or you could also use a super-fresh soft goat's cheese or a mozzarella for this dish.
2 beef tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of thyme, chopped
150-160g goat's curd
40-50g pickled walnuts, drained
50-70ml extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Heat an ovenproof frying pan or non-stick pan and rub with a little of the olive oil. Halve the tomatoes, season, and fry them on the cut side down for 3-4 minutes until nicely coloured. Turn them, scatter with the thyme, spoon over half of the olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, then remove and leave to cool.
To serve, place the tomato, cut side up, on serving plates and spoon the goat's curd on top. Chop the pickled walnuts a little and mix with the remaining oil and spoon over the tomatoes.
Tomato salad with fried Reggiano Parmesan and rosemary
A couple of months ago I took my two daughters, Ellie and Lydia, to their favourite local Italian, Contis at Disley in Stockport. The restaurant has recently changed ownership and as a little complimentary titbit they served us up nuggets of Parmesan, deep fried in a light batter with a similarly fried sprig of rosemary. I had never eaten it before and it took a while to work out quite what it was. I thought it was a very cheesy fried gnocchi to start with – but after a short steward's inquiry with Ellie and Lydia, we cracked it.
The rosemary came as a separate long sprig just battered and fried, but I thought the two should be combined before frying. I've used a selection of tomatoes here, and you too can use whatever ones are available.
Oil for deep frying
4 sprigs of rosemary about 10cm long
250g block of Reggiano Parmesan
500-600g of mixed tomatoes
A few sprigs of bush or normal basil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
For the batter
4-5tbsp self-raising flour
Cold water to mix
For the dressing
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
4tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer.
To make the batter, whisk enough of the water into the flour to form a smooth batter and season. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. You can test the lightness of the batter by just dropping a little into the hot fat.
Meanwhile, cut the parmesan into rough 11/2 cm nuggets then thread about 4 pieces or so, spaced out, on to the rosemary.
Cut the tomatoes into halves, wedges or rough pieces depending on the size and shape of them and arrange on serving plates. Season, then whisk the balsamic vinegar and olive oil together and drizzle over.
Dip the rosemary stick and cheese into the batter then into the hot fat and cook until crisp for a couple of minutes. Serve the rosemary resting on the tomatoes.
Soused mackerel with tomatoes and samphire
Sousing is an old-fashioned way of preserving your catch, and the end results are quite delicious. Tomato growers might find that it's a good idea to preserve your crop in a similar way. If you have both mackerel and tomatoes in ready supply at this time of the year you may just want to try this dish out. I've tweaked the conventional recipe here which I learnt from my grandmother. She used to make it when I turned up at home with carrier bags full of mackerel that I had caught with my mates.
8 mackerel fillets, trimmed and boned
2 small onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
75ml malt vinegar
6 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
200g samphire, trimmed of woody stalks
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Roll up the mackerel fillets skin-side out and secure with cocktail sticks. Put them in an ovenproof dish, not too close together. Gently cook the onions, bay leaf, black pepper and fennel in the rapeseed oil for 3-4 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt, then pour over the mackerel. Cover and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes; remove and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, blanch the samphire in unsalted boiling water for 30-40 seconds, then drain and refresh under cold water. The mackerel can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or served on the day scattered with the samphire.
Preserved semi-dried cherry tomatoes
Makes about half a litre
This is a great way to preserve a bumper crop. And it's also a useful snack to go with cheeses and cold meats. Once the tomatoes have been eaten, the oil from them can be kept for a great tomato-infused dressing.
1kg large cherry or baby plum tomatoes, stalked and halved lengthways
Approx 250-300ml olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 135C/gas mark 1 or lower if you have a fan oven.
Lay the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Place in the oven for a couple of hours or until they have dried to about two-thirds of their size.
Transfer the tomatoes to a sterilised Kilner jar. Heat the oil with the thyme and garlic then pour on to the tomatoes, seal the lid and leave to cool. These will keep in the fridge for 1-2 months, and the oil will solidify when refrigerated so you will need to leave them out for a while before using.
Fillet of beef with grilled prawn and tomato salsa
This is a kind of sophisticated surf and turf dish; and it's great to serve at a dinner party straight off the barbecue. As you may have noticed, I rarely use fillet of beef, for the reason that it's often not left to hang on the carcass for very long, and it is cut out and vacuum packed soon after slaughter so there's very little flavour remaining.
If you know your butcher well enough and he hangs his own meat, ask him to keep the fillet on the carcass when it's hung and cut it out when it's mature. When I trained as a chef, we were taught to trim the fillet to a completely clean eye of meat, removing the chain and everything else. I think that is sacrilege on such a premium cut, because the chain is a tasty bit of the fillet and that outer crust, as long as it hasn't gone too green, gives the meat some character.
4 fillet steaks weighing about 180g each
1tbsp vegetable oil
4 large sea water prawns with the heads on or 8 smaller ones
For the tomato salsa
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
3tbsp olive oil
6 ripe plum or round tomatoes, skinned, halved and seeds removed
1tsp coarsely chopped oregano leaves
1tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First make the salsa. Very gently cook the onion, garlic and chilli in a tablespoon of the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often until soft, then remove from the heat. Chop the tomatoes into a rough 1cm dice and mix with the onion mixture. Stir in the oregano and balsamic vinegar and season.
Pre-heat a barbecue or ribbed griddle, season the steaks and lightly brush them with oil. Grill for 3-4 minutes on a high heat on each side for rare, depending on the thickness, allowing a couple of minutes more for medium. While they are cooking, season and grill the prawns for 2-3 minutes on each side.
To serve, spoon the salsa on to plates, lay the fillet on top and a prawn on each fillet.
Fried green tomatoes
My friend Jamie who has lived in New York for some years now promised me a proper New York barbecue at one of his local restaurants a few weeks ago, and I spotted these fried green tomatoes on the menu. They were deliciously crisp in a light maize-like batter. This dish is a perfect match for simply barbecued meat and fish, or you could have it as a starter with maybe a red tomato salsa, or serve it with the beef fillet recipe before.
4 green tomatoes
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
Flour for dusting
For the batter
8tbsp ground maize flour
8tbsp self-raising flour
Water to mix
Salt and cayenne pepper
Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer.
First make the batter. Mix the maize and self-raising flours together, then whisk in enough water to make a smooth batter and season. Cut the tomatoes into 1cm thick slices, dust with flour then dip into the batter and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden. Drain on some kitchen paper and lightly season with salt.Reuse content