This week’s column is especially for you garden heroes who nurtured lots of your own beautiful produce during the Summer and are now faced with more than you can possibly enjoy. Lots of tips to preserve a glut of those tasty vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs. One doesn’t want to waste a single scrap of your precious crop.
Because of the rollercoaster weather pattern this Summer, tomatoes ripened late so like us you may well have a glut of super ripe tomatoes now. We’ve been making gallons of tomato purée to use as a basis for a tomato soup during the winter months. Tomato fondue and a spicy chilli version are also a brilliant freezer standby to use as a pasta sauce, a topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, sauce for chicken or fish or simply a vegetable side. I’m never without this – it’s one of my great convertibles.
Beets are easily pickled. I did try cooking and freezing them, but somehow the texture changes, became sort of spongy so that wasn’t a great success for me. Pickled beets are great, keep for a year or more and don’t need to be refrigerated.
This beetroot soup is also super delicious and freezes perfectly for autumn and winter dinner parties. Float a little chive or dill cream on top for extra pizzazz.
We’ve also got a glut of courgettes, some monster ones and remember the bigger they grow, the less flavour so whip them off the plant and make a spiced courgette soup or a courgette chutney and how about this zucchini bread.
It may not be everybody’s problem but I’ve also got a glut of end of the season aubergines so I love to char them over a gas jet to make Turkish moutabal, it keeps very well, and Rory tells me that he has frozen aubergines successfully also.
Fresh herbs can be easily dried, of course it’s useful to have a dehydrator, but honestly many of them can be successfully dried on the shelf in a warm kitchen or on a wire rack on the windowsill. We’ve been drying lots of lemon verbena for the herb teas during the winter. The last of your fresh mint can be chopped and frozen in little ice cubes. Mint syrup has also been a success for me. Fantastic for winter drinks or drizzles or to add a little pep and freshness to a winter fruit salad.
Spicy Tomato Fondue
Make a big batch or several of this delicious, spicy tomato – you can whip up a meal in minutes for pizza, omelette filling, sauce for a grilled chicken breast, lamb chop, or a spicy side – add a can of beans and it’s a bean stew…
For the Spicy Tomato Fondue
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
110g onions, sliced
1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
900g very ripe tomatoes in summer, peeled (see note)
flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar, to taste
Heat the oil in a large stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole over a gentle heat. Add the sliced onions, chopped chillies, ground cumin and garlic, and stir well to coat everything in the oil. Cover the pan with a lid and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft, but not coloured. It is vital that the onions are completely soft before you add the tomatoes.
Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes and add to the pan with their juices (if you are using tinned tomatoes, you can tip them straight in). Season with salt, pepper and sugar; tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity. Cover and cook for a further 10-20 minutes until the tomato softens, uncovering for the last 5 minutes or so to reduce the sauce a little. Fresh tomatoes need a shorter cooking time than tinned ones to preserve their lively fresh flavour. Depending on how you plan to use your fondue, you might want to reduce it a bit further.
Cool and freeze.
To Peel Tomatoes
tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then pour off the water and slip off
Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe summer tomatoes for Winter. Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.
900g very ripe tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp sugar
good pinch of salt
a few twists of black pepper
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook, covered on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water is needed). Put through the fine blade of the mouli-legume or a nylon sieve.
Allow to get cold, refrigerate or
Beetroot Soup with Chive Cream
A deliciously silky soup with a rich, vibrant colour – it also freezes brilliantly. Make lots with the end of season beets to enjoy during Autumn and Winter.
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2 litres homemade chicken or vegetable stock approx.
125ml creamy milk
125ml sour cream or crème fraiche
finely chopped chives
Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap. Don’t scrub, simply rub off the clay with your fingers. You won’t want to damage the skin or cut off the top or tails because it will ‘bleed’ in the cooking. Put the beetroot into cold water, and simmer covered for anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and age.
Meanwhile chop the onions, sweat carefully and gently in the butter until they are cooked. The beetroot is cooked when the skins will rub off easily.
Peel all the beetroot and remove the stalks. Chop the beetroot and add to the onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put into a liquidiser with the hot chicken stock. Liquidise until quite smooth. * Reheat, add some creamy milk, taste and adjust the seasoning, it may be necessary to add a little more stock or creamy milk.
Serve garnished with little swirls of sour cream and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.
Watchpoint: careful not to damage the beetroot during preparation or they will bleed
Golden Beetroot Soup
Use the golden Chioggia beetroot variety in the recipe above.
Chilled Beetroot Soup
Proceed as in the master recipe above to *. Liquidise with just enough stock to cover. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold in some cream and yoghurt.
Serve well chilled in small bowls with little swirls of yoghurt and finely chopped chives.
Smoky Aubergine Dip – Moutabal
This smoky aubergine dip was served on virtually every menu when I visited Syria in 2009. It was always different but always delicious. I ate moutabal fourteen times in a row, all in the name of research…Charring the aubergines over a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the dip a distinctive smoky flavour. Be careful not to overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavour of the aubergines.
2 large aubergines (approx. 650g)
50g tahini paste
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
pitta bread, to serve
Char the aubergines directly over a gas flame, using tongs, until the flesh is really soft and tender and the peel is black and charred. Peel carefully and discard the skins. Leave the aubergines to cool to room temperature.
Finely chop the aubergine flesh and place in a bowl. Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste and mix well. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if serving immediately. Otherwise, put into a sterilised jar/jars, cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil and the lid. Refrigerate until needed.
Serve with pitta bread. Eat alone or as part of a Middle Eastern
Rachel’s Zucchini and Walnut Bread
We’ve got several recipes for zucchini/courgette bread but Rachel says this version originally given to her by an American friend is the favourite. First published in Rachel Allen’s book ‘Bake’.
Serves 16-20 approx.
400g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
75g walnuts, chopped
300g caster sugar
100g Demerara sugar
3 eggs, beaten
200ml sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
380g zucchini grated (with skin left on)
50g chopped walnuts for scattering on top of the breads
Line 2 loaf tins (13 x 23cm) with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.
In a large bowl, sift in the flour, the bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder then mix in the salt, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ground cloves and the chopped walnuts. Add the caster sugar and the Demerara sugar and stir well to mix.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the oil and the vanilla extract. Grate the whole unpeeled zucchini then add into the eggs and oil and mix well until combined.
Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf tins. Scatter the remaining 50g (2oz) walnuts over the top of each zucchini bread.
Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for about 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve, sliced on its own or toasted and buttered.
Tightly wrapped in parchment paper, these loaves keep well for up to 10 days.
Honey & Co’s Courgette, Golden Raisin & Pistachio Cake
Taken from Honey & Co ‘The Baking Book’ published by Headline Home
I love this recipe and you will too. Thank you Sarit and Itamar.
Makes 1 x 1kg (2lb) loaf
175g self-raising flour
a pinch of table salt
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground star anise
200g light brown soft sugar
50g caster sugar
185ml olive oil
60g golden raisins
3 courgettes, unpeeled but trimmed, grated (200g)
zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)/Gas Mark 5.
Butter the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with a sheet of baking parchment, allowing a little overhang at the sides. Once the oven is hot, roast the pistachios for 8 minutes. Keep them whole and leave to cool a little. Mix the flour, salt, ginger and star anise
together and add the pistachios. Place the sugars and oil in a large mixing bowl (or you could use a machine with a whisk attachment if you are super-lazy) and whisk together until combined. Whisk the eggs in one at a time and keep whisking until you have a lovely, emulsified texture, a little like mayonnaise. Now add the rest
of the ingredients, get rid of the whisk and use a large spoon or spatula to fold and combine to an even mixture. Transfer the cake batter to your lined loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the tin around so that it bakes evenly and leave for a further 15-20 minutes. The end result should have a lovely springy feel. Allow to cool in the tin before removing. This will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days and for up to a week if you store it in the fridge.