ArchiveAugust 2019

Climate Change….

I’m increasingly dismayed by the often ill-informed and self-righteous debate on climate change. For many – Stop eating meat . . . is considered to be the solution to all our planetary and climate change ills. Farmers of all persuasions are being ‘tarred with the same brush’ and vilified. . .

Some farming methods certainly need to be reviewed and there is a growing consensus that business as usual is no longer an option particularly for very intensive pig and poultry units which despite economies of scale rarely even yield a decent income for the farmers themselves, many of whom feel trapped in the system, fuelled by our assumption that cheap food at any cost is our right!

If you ask most young people what we should eat to be sustainable and healthy, their immediate and well intentioned response will be,  Go vegan or vegetarian. They are convinced by the argument that meat, particularly red meat is bad for us and damaging to the environment. However, there is a world of difference, both in health terms and in environmental terms in meat from pasture reared livestock and intensively reared animals from feedlot systems. Cattle are crucially important to a sustainable agricultural system; it is worth noting that worldwide, approx. 80% of the land that cattle graze on cannot be used for tillage or other forms of agriculture.

It is also important to understand that cattle, other animals and poultry build soil fertility. A crucially important factor at a time when the UN warns us that there are less than 60 harvests left in many intensively farmed soils.

In Ireland we are favoured by nature, with optimum conditions to produce superb food. Many farmers desperately want to be a part of the solution to global warming. They urgently need wise advice, training and support to embark on regenerative agriculture that encourages continual innovation and improvement of environmental, social and economic measures. The primary priority in regenerative organic agriculture is soil health. Vitally important when one realises that our health comes directly from the soil.

For optimum health enjoy a little of all the bounty of nature. . .  Eat vegetables, herbs and foraged foods in season and seek out humanely reared meat with a nice covering of juicy fat so important for our health, include some beautiful wild fish when you can get it fresh, an increasingly difficult challenge.

This week, let’s show support for our farmers who work 24/7 to produce nourishing meat for us to enjoy. Buy from your local butcher preferably one with their own abattoir who knows the source of the meat and buys directly from local farmers or the local mart. Let’s eat a little less but seek out pasture raised meat, from native breeds.

If you are confused about what to eat for optimum health start by cutting all processed and fake food out of your diet, just eat real food in season. . . One could do worse than listen to the sage advice of the Weston A. Price foundation www.westonaprice.org and wise tradition podcasts https://www.westonaprice.org/podcast/ – Some are literally life changing

The reality is, nutrient dense sustainable food can be more expensive to produce. As tax payers we all contribute to a farm support system.

Our taxes help to fund the health service, clean up the environment. . . . I strongly believe that politicians urgently need to be courageous. . .  move the support to more sustainable forms of food production which I believe will help to reduce climate change and benefit our health, a win, win situation all the way… meanwhile back to the comfort of the kitchen and a few of my favorite recipes for super delicious beef dishes.

Homemade Beef Burgers with Ginger Mushrooms and Buffalo Chips

Serves 6

Beef Burgers

15g (1/2oz) butter

75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped (optional)

450g (1lb) freshly minced beef – flank, or chump or even shin would be perfect

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

pork caul fat, optional

oil or dripping

Ginger Mushrooms

25g (1oz/) butter

75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped

225g (1/2 lb) mushrooms

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

20g (3/4oz) nibbed almonds, lightly toasted

Buffalo Chips

6 large potatoes unpeeled

salt

Beef dripping or oil for deep-frying – 

Green salad and cherry tomatoes (optional).

burger buns (see recipe)

First make the burgers.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, toss in the chopped onions, sweat until soft but not coloured, then allow to get cold.  Meanwhile mix the mince with the herbs, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the onions and mix well.  Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning and tweak if necessary.  Then shape into burgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require.  Wrap each one loosely in caul fat if using.  Keep refrigerated. 

Next make the Ginger mushrooms.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile slice and cook the mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.  Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.  Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream, ginger, toasted almonds and allow to bubble for a few minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.  Keep aside. 

Scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges from top to bottom – they should be about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and at least 2 1/2 inches (6 1/2 cm) long.  If you like rinse the chips quickly in cold water but do not soak, dry them meticulously with a tea towel or kitchen paper before cooking.

Heat the beef dripping or oil in the deep fry to 180°C/350°F, fry twice, once at this temperature for 5-8 minutes depending on size then drain. 

Meanwhile fry the burgers and reheat the ginger mushrooms. 

Increase the heat to 220°C/425°F and cook the Buffalo chips for a further 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden.  Shake the basket, drain well, toss on to kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt.  Put the burgers onto hot plates, spoon some ginger mushrooms over the side of the burgers and pile on the crispy buffalo chips. 

Put a little green salad dressed in a well flavoured dressing on the side with one or two ripe cherry tomatoes and a perky spring onion

Serve immediately and tuck in.

Italian Beef Stew

A good gutsy beef stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. 

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

2 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

285g (10 oz) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon  flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomatoes  -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons, chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Accompaniment

Polenta, mashed potato or noodles.

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions and carrots on a gentle heat with a lid on for 8-10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, add to the casserole.  Sprinkle in the flour over the meat stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the red wine, stock and tomato purée together and bring to the boil. Deglaze the pan, with a little stock, scrape to dissolve the flavoursome sediment, bring back to the boil and then add to the casserole.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently for 2 to 21/2 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with Polenta, mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Italian Beef Stew with Gremolata

Sprinkle a little gremolata (see recipe below) over each portion of Italian Beef Stew and serve.

Gremolata

Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

4 tablespoons, preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.

Beef Fajitas with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole

Serves 4

For the marinade

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tsp crushed chilli flakes

½ tsp ground cumin

2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram OR

1 dried oregano teasp

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 tbsp Mexican beer, or lager

1 tbsp olive oil

500g (1 lb) rump steak, cut 2.5 cm (1in) thick. 

For Guacamole

1-2 fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

2-4 tbsp  freshly squeezed lime juice

2 ripe avocados, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper 

4 flour tortillas

1 handful shredded lettuce

tomato and coriander salsa (see recipe below)

125ml (4 floz) sour cream

First make the marinade, combine the garlic, chilli flakes, cumin, oregano, allspice, beer and oil. Add steak and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. For guacamole, combine chillies, coriander, lime juice and avocado. Mash with a potato masher until well combined but still chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

Grill the steak and leave to stand for 5 minutes before carving into 1cm (1/2 in) thick slices. Warm the tortillas and divide steak slices between the warmed tortillas. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and pepper. Top with shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, a good dollop of guacamole and sour cream. Roll up and serve hot

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Serves 4-6

Tomato salsa is best in summer and early autumn when tomatoes are super ripe and juicy.

Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pan grilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Julija’s Lithuanian Beef Goulash

One day when I was madly busy at the Cookery School, I asked Julija Makejeva, who had recently arrived from Lithuania with little English, if she could cook. She looked at me as though she

hadn’t understood the question. So I asked her again and she said, ‘Of course I cook. Everyone cook’.

Afterwards I realised it seemed to her to be the most ridiculous question. She learned how to cook this goulash from her mother, and now I pass it on to you.

Serves 8

1.1kg (21⁄2lb) stewing beef, cut in 2.5cm (1in) cubes

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon paprika

1⁄4 –1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)

salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons sunflower oil

225g (8oz) onions, sliced

450g (1lb) carrots, cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) cubes

50g (2oz) white flour

850ml (11⁄2 pints)good  Beef Stock 

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/ gas mark 2.

Put the cubes of beef in a bowl and add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper. Mix well and leave to rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced onions and cubed carrots. Fry for a few minutes until slightly soft and beginning to colour. Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.

Increase the heat under the pan, add more oil and brown the beef in batches. When brown on all sides, transfer the meat to the casserole.

Put the casserole on a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the frying pan with the stock. Gradually add it to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours (depending on the cut of meat) until meltingly tender. Serve with boiled potatoes or plain boiled rice.

Kids Love to Cook

Kids just love to cook and learn about how their food is grown and produced. We coordinated a few Summer Camps and Kids Farm Walks here on the farm over the past few weeks, such excitement…

 The children got fully immersed in the activities of the organic farm. They ran off to collect the freshly laid eggs from the nests in the hen house, and jostled each other to feed the Jersey calves. They loved watching the free range Duroc/Tamworth pigs snuffling in the ground for roots and grubs to keep them healthy – squeals of joy as the pigs ran over the fence. They fed them the end of a crop of spinach and some sweetcorn that had bolted in the green houses.

They also loved sowing seeds and harvesting the produce. In the herb garden, they smelled and tasted fresh herbs, rubbed mint, lemon balm and lemon verbena between their fingers, tasted them and guessed what the flavours would be good with. They giggled and marvelled at the sharp lemony flavour of buckler leaf sorrel and learned how to pick tomatoes with the calyx still on. Ate green beans off the plant, picked cobs of sweetcorn and ripe berries from the strawberry patch. Each of these activities plus listening to the bird song and watching bees collecting nectar from the flowers are a beautiful educational activity.

One of the highlights was watching Maria our ‘dairy queen’ milking the cows in our micro dairy. They saw the milk being separated and then each got a jar of cream to make into butter. They shook the jam jars as they danced to the sound of disco music and hey presto – butter to spread on the scones they made in the kitchen.

They discovered  that many weeds are edible and full of mighty minerals and vitamins and magic trace elements to keep them bouncing with energy. They raced into the blueberries cage to pick the juicy fruit to pop into drop scones.

They made their pizza dough and tomato sauce and let it rise while they collected fallen timber to light a camp fire.

On the last day they set up a Kids Café in the garden so parents could join them to enjoy the delicious food from their mornings cooking in the kitchen, and how they love cooking! It’s astonishing what even quite small children can learn how to do. They can make pasta, bake bread, jam, salads, sauces, both sweet and savoury dishes, juice fruit for homemade lemonade, make popsicles, and feed the scraps left over from their cooking to the grateful hens before they headed home with a little goodie bag of their very own homemade food. Teaching kids how to cook is giving them a gift for life – equipping them with the practical skills to feed themselves healthy wholesome food and they love it!

Salad of Avocado, Cucumber, Tomato, Blueberries Walnuts and Greens

Bursting with goodness and fun to make . . . .

Serves 4

110g (4oz) blueberries

1 organic avocado, diced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

½ cucumber cut into chunky pieces

6 cherry tomatoes halved

2 handfuls of rocket, baby spinach leaves and baby kale

12 walnuts, halved, toasted and roughly chopped

For the Honey Chia Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon chia seeds

good pinch salt

Just before serving whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.

Prepare the ingredients. Put the washed and dried greens into a bowl. Sprinkle with dressing. Add the red onion and blueberries. Toss gently to coat. Pile onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts on top. Fork up gently.

Garnish with edible flowers, marigold petals, chive or wild garlic flowers . . . .

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6 approximately

 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2 tins (x 400g/14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

1 tablespoon of any of the following;

freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

 Heat the oil in a stainless steel sauté pan or casserole.  Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.  Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).  Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little.  Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the sauce as a vegetable or filling.

Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Pasta with Bacon and Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce

Serves 6-8

Here is an example of how versatile Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce is.

1 lb (450g) spaghetti

a dash of oil

1 oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce (see recipe)

8 ozs (225g) cooked bacon or ham

4 ozs (110g) freshly grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or Parmesan

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt and a dash of oil. Add in the spaghetti, stir, boil furiously until almost cooked – al dente – 15 minutes approx. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce, add the diced cooked ham or bacon and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, pour off all the water and drain well, toss in a little butter and season with freshly ground pepper. Pour into a wide, hot bowl or pasta dish, then pour over the tomato sauce, Sprinkle with herbs and grated cheese and serve immediately on very hot plates.

Teeny Weenies

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

1lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) approx.

Cutter 1 1/2 inch (4cm) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g.; rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip in grated Cheddar cheese for yummy Cheddar teeny weenies.

Blueberry Drop Scones

Drop scones are so quick and easy to make, the blueberries make lovely addition.

Makes 24

10oz (275g/2 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 3/4oz (45g/scant 1/4 cup) sugar plus more for sprinkling on top

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3oz (75g/3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

2oz (50g) fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed if frozen

1 large egg, free range

6fl oz (175g/3/4 cup) milk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425F/Gas Mark 7.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.   Rub in the butter until crumbs form.  Stir in the blueberries.

Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl.   Add to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until the ingredients are moistened and bind together.  

Drop the batter in heaped tablespoons, 2 inches (5cm) apart on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake until golden brown for about 12 minutes. 

Serve immediately.

Fresh Strawberry Popsicles

Makes (18fl oz/2 1/4 cups) or 6 x 3fl oz (1/2 cup) popsicles

400g (14oz) fresh strawberries

Lemon juice

150ml (5floz) Stock Syrup

Clean and hull the strawberries, put into a liquidiser or food processor and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice and stock syrup.

Pour into 75ml (3floz) popsicle moulds and freeze for 3 – 4 hours

Stock Syrup

Makes 28 fl oz (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.

Raspberry Jam

Makes 3 x 450g (1lb) pots

Raspberry jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious. The kids were thrilled with their achievement and proudly brought some home.

Loganberries, Boysenberries or Tayberries may also be used in this recipe.

900g (2lbs/8 cups) fresh raspberries

790g (1lb 12ozs/3 1/2 cups) granulated sugar

Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in a moderate oven 160°C/315°F/Gas Mark 3, for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.

Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.

Hide the jam in a cool place or else put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!

Zucchini

Call them by whatever name you fancy, Zucchini or Courgettes are super versatile and an excellent opportunity for a creative cook to rustle up lots of exciting dishes. So instead of the usual moaning about a glut of courgettes in August, let’s have fun. The beautiful courgette plant with its huge leaves and hollow stems and beautiful blousey yellow blossoms just goes on giving. The faster you pick, the faster they seem to grow, so keep on picking and challenge yourself to find new delectable ways to enjoy them, there are many.. . . It’s difficult to get one excited about a marrow, although I am partial to some spicy ginger marrow jam made from a genuine marrow, also part of the cucurbit family, rather than a courgette that got away. They can grow up to an inch a day and become less and less flavourful, the more they expand, so pick them from fingerling size to peak perfection at no more than 5 – 6 inches, they are crisp and nutty, a revelation to those who have only tasted the watery commercial version.

I adore crisp, deep fried courgette blossoms, something you’re unlikely to be able to enjoy unless you grow your own. . .

The female flower will have the courgette attached, the male flowers with their long stalks are made for stuffing. Could be a simple, melty piece of mozzarella with a basil leaf and maybe a scrap of salty anchovy or some Toonsbridge ricotta, Dip them in a simple batter and fry until crisp in a light olive oil.

We’re also loving eating the young crisp zucchini raw as a cruditee with a garlicy aioli or tapenade mayo.

For courgette ‘carpaccio’, try scattering a few long shavings of courgette on a chilled plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few shavings of pecorino and crisp deep fried capers – a divine combination.

Little medallions of courgettes tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil in a wok or a fry pan for just a couple of minutes, are the quintessential fast food. Add some flaky sea salt, coarsely chopped annual marjoram, tarragon or basil and serve immediately. Serve as a side, or toss onto pasta or sprinkle over a piece of grilled mackerel or chicken.

Courgettes barbeque brilliantly too and make delicious little courgette or zucchini cakes.

There’s so much more – ratatouille, caponata, roast summer vegetables. . . and I haven’t even mentioned zucchini bread or muffins.

This column could be three times the length, meanwhile a few recipes to whet your appetite. . .  if you still have more courgettes than you can cope with. Share both the courgettes and recipes with your friends.

www.cookingisfun.ie

www.instagram.com/darina_allen

www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool

www.instagram.com/timanddarina

Courgette & Blossom Salad with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This simple salad is delicious served warm with nothing more than a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt.

Serves 4–6

8 small courgettes with flowers, if available (choose shiny, firm courgettes)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Separate the flowers from the courgettes. Remove the stamens and little thorns from the base of the flowers.

Plunge the whole courgettes into boiling salted water and poach them until barely tender – 4–5 minutes. Remove from the pot and leave to cool slightly. While still warm, slice them at an angle to allow six slices to each courgette.

Season the courgette slices with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and then sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss gently and serve immediately, surrounded by the torn courgette flowers.

Hot crusty bread is the only accompaniment needed

Diana’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

450g 1lb plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 level teaspoon bread soda – finely sieved

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

120ml 4floz milk

2 organic eggs

110g 4oz butter

110g 4oz castor sugar

3 x15cm 6 inch zucchini – grated

2 oz chopped walnuts

2 loaf tins 13cm x 20cm or 5”x8”  – fully lined

Fully preheat the oven to 180C 350F Reglo 4

Sieve the dry ingredients. In a large wide bowl rub in the butter.  Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs and whisk in the milk. 

Mix into the flour mixture.  Beat with a wooden spoon till evenly combined.  Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the two loaf tins and bake in the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes in the tins , remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Zucchini Trifolati

Usually we are super careful not to overcook zucchini, but here the magic is in cooking them to melting tenderness.  The Italians call this Trifolata. The end result will be a chunky puree – an irresistibly delicious vegetable – I also love it piled onto a piece of grilled bread or on top of pasta.  There are so many other variations, add cream and some freshly chopped herbs for a gorgeous sauce, puree a little and add some homemade chicken or veg stock and some milk and fresh basil for a chunky soup

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 medium green and yellow zucchini, cut at an angle into 5mm (1/4 inch) rounds

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground

pinch of chilli flakes

10 basil leaves

10 mint leaves

zucchini blossoms (if available)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Choose a heavy-bottomed sauté pan that will hold the courgettes comfortably; they shouldn’t come higher than 4cm (1 1/2 inch) up the side of the sauté pan.

I like to slice the zucchini and put them in the pan first to check.  If there are too many layers of zucchini in the pan they will stew and if there are not enough then the zucchini will dry out and burn.

Heat the pan over a high heat and once it is hot, add the oil, quickly followed by the zucchini. Stir, making sure all the zucchini have been coated in the oil, and fry until golden brown.  Then add the garlic, fennel, and chilli flakes and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.  If it’s starting to catch at this stage, add a few tablespoons of water.

Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight fitting lid and stew for 5 – 10 minutes. When the zucchini are soft and tender, tear in the mint and basil leaves and a few zucchini blossoms if you have them. Add 1 tablespoon of your best extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.  The zucchini should be soft, juicy and full of flavour, not al dente.

Deep-Fried Courgette Flowers

If you live on the Continent, you’ll be able to buy courgette flowers in your local market. Over here, they’re beginning to appear in farmers’ markets, but more than likely you’ll have to grow them yourself. We usually use the male flowers for this recipe, because taking the female flower means you’ll deprive yourself of a courgette. They’re delicious just dipped in batter and deep-fried, but they’re also a vehicle for lots of different stuffings.

Serves 6

12–16 courgette flowers (allow 1–3 flowers per person)

Batter (see below)

sunflower oil for deep-fat frying

First make the batter. Then heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer until it’s very hot.

Remove the thorns from the base of the courgette flowers and insert your fingers into the centre and remove the stamens. Dip each flower in batter, shake off the excess and drop, one by one, into the hot oil. Fry on one side for about 2 minutes and then turn over. They will take about 4 minutes in total and should be crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately, as part of a fritto misto or as a nibble. They’re delicious served with a fresh tomato sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

Variations

Courgette blossoms are also delicious stuffed. Some suggested fillings:

•        Buffalo mozzarella with pesto, tapenade or concentrated tomato fondue and a basil leaf

•        Goat’s cheese, chopped chorizo and flat parsley

•        Chicken or scallop mousse

Batter

150g (5oz) plain flour

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large organic egg white

Sea salt

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, pour in the olive oil and stir.  Gradually add enough water, about 175ml to make a batter about the consistency of double cream.  Cover and allow to stand until ready to use.  Whisk the egg white to a stiff peak and fold it into the batter and fry to test the seasoning.  Allow the excess batter to drip off, then lower gently into the oil, shaking the basket all the time.  Cook until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper.  Taste, add more salt to the batter if necessary. 

Tian of Summer Vegetables baked with olive oil and herbs

A delicious recipe to marry courgettes with other summer vegetables

Serves 8 – 10

4 spring onions, thinly sliced or 1 onion very thinly sliced

3 small aubergines (about 675g/1 1/2lbs)

4-6 courgettes, about (560g/20oz)

6-8 very ripe tomatoes (about 900g/2 lbs) peeled

4-6fl oz (110-175ml) extra virgin olive oil

2-4 teaspoons herbs e.g. rosemary or thyme, or annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

1-2 tablespoons (1 ½ -2½tablespoons) parsley, freshly chopped

A large shallow dish   14 x 12 inches (35.5 x 30.5cm) or 2 dishes 10 x 8 inches (25.5 x 21.5cm)

To prepare the vegetables, cut the aubergines into 1/ inch (1cm) slices, sprinkle them with salt and leave to drain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to remove excess salt and pat dry with paper towels. Peel the tomatoes and cut in thick slices. Slice the courgettes at an angle in three-eight inch slices also.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. 

Drizzle a shallow baking dish well with olive oil, sprinkle on the thinly sliced spring onion and some annual marjoram or thyme or rosemary, arrange the aubergine slices alternatively with tomatoes and courgettes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle over a little more marjoram. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through, keep an eye on them, you may need to cover with a butter wrapper or tin foil if they are getting too brown.  Sprinkle with some parsley and serve.

Variations

Sprinkle buttered crumbs mixed with grated cheese on top brown under the grill before serving.

Buttered Crumbs

2oz (50g) butter

4oz (110g) soft white breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.

Beetroot

Beetroot is my star of the week for this column. A three in one Summer vegetable that goes on giving – If you haven’t had a chance to grow some of your own, swing by the local Country Market or Farmers Market in your area. Choose a bunch of beautiful beets that still have healthy leaves and stalks intact. This is a true ‘root to shoot’ vegetable. The stalks and dark magenta leaves are also super delicious as well as the beetroot… we love to use them in both sweet and savoury dishes and enjoy both the golden and purple at so many stages.

I pick the young thinnings to add to a salad of summer leaves or to pile on top of a pizza.  We start to use the beets themselves when they are golf ball size and continue as they swell. Roasting intensifies the natural sweetness even further but boiling the beets also works brilliantly and can be the basis of so many good things from soups to stews, curries, dips and crisps and of course pickles.

Have you tried Russian Kvass, a deeply nourishing, lacto fermented drink, full of probiotic goodness and so easy to make. It’s known for its healing and cleansing properties and of course also aids digestion. Beetroot gin is super cool, how about beetroot gravalax or a beetroot cake and who doesn’t love beetroot brownies…..

We made a number of beetroot soups both hot and chilled, some are smooth and silky, others like Borscht and Chorba has lots of chunky bits – a drizzle of sour or pungent horseradish cream over the top and a sprinkling of purple chive flowers or pretty chervil blossoms to ‘guild the lily’.

This beetroot dip is irresistible, a brilliant standby to have on hand to scoop up with pitta or as part of a mezza plate. Chunks of beetroot add extra deliciousness and nutrients to a tray of roast vegetables. The Sri Lankans make some of the best vegetable curry and I featured my favourite Beetroot curry from Sunhouse in Galle on the 25th May (http://letters.cookingisfun.ie/2019/05/#Sri+Lankan+Beetroot%0ACurry)

Beetroot crisps are also irresistible, remember to cook them at 160° rather than the 180° for potato crisps because of their high natural sugar content which can scorch at a higher heat.

Then of course there’s the bonus of the stalks and leaves from the summer beets, chop the stalks and cook in boiling salted water for a few minutes (spinach stalks work too), slather with extra virgin olive oil, add freshly chopped herbs and chilli, delicious and a favourite on Fergus Henderson’s menu at St John in London.

The leaves can be cooked like spinach either in well salted water on a frying pan over a high heat.

If you are lucky enough to have a glut, then let’s pickle, who doesn’t love juicy, homemade beetroot pickle? So completely different to the harsh vinegary pickle of childhood memories. It’ll last for months to embellish goats cheese, smoked fish or salads and there’s the extra feel good factor of having pickled your own and great to have as a homemade pressie when visiting friends.

Check out these beetroot recipe suggestions….

Beetroot Crisps

You can make vegetable crisps from a variety of different vegetables: parsley, celeriac, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes of course. But you need to be careful with the ones that are very high in sugar, because they need to be cooked at a lower temperature, otherwise they’ll be dark and bitter. Serves about 8

a few raw beetroots, small to medium-sized

oil in a deep-fat fryer

salt

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the beetroot. Then slice on a mandolin into paper-thin slices. Leave them to dry out on kitchen paper (this may take several hours). You want them to be dry, otherwise they’ll end up being soggy when you cook them.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 140ºC (275ºF) and cook slowly, a few at a time. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.

Beetroot Kvass

This is a slightly sour/salty tonic of a deep-red colour known to help clean the liver and purify the blood.

2 large beetroot
1 1/2 litres (2 1/2 pints) filtered water (or non-chlorinated)
2 teaspoons sea salt
50ml (2fl oz) starter – this could be whey, water kefir, sauerkraut juice or kombucha

Scrub the beetroot but do not peel.

Chop into small chunks – 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes (roughly).

Put into a 2 litre Kilner jar or something similar with a lid.

Add the water, sea salt and starter and secure the lid tightly.

Allow to sit in a warming undisturbed place for about 5 days.

Bubbles will start to appear (fermentation is taking a hold) – taste it after day 3, if it is to your liking.  Strain out the beetroot chunks.  Bottle and store in the fridge once it reaches the desired sourness.

Rory O’Connell’s Chilled Ruby Beetroot Soup

 Hopefully your decision to make this soup will coincide with a warm day, as scorching shaded lunches or long balmy evenings are the perfect weather conditions for enjoying this soup, though I can enjoy it almost as much in less clement weather conditions. If you come across golden beetroots, they can be used in exactly the same way as the ruby variety, though they must be cooked separately as the ruby beetroot will bleed into the golden and render them pink, which would really defeat the purpose of using them in the first place. I some times make a little of both colours and serve them swirled together though you may think that’s too horribly psychadelic. Lots of finely chopped chives and their pretty pink flowers help to make a pretty and delicious presentation. Save the leaves of the beets for wilting, or if small and delicate for adding to your salad bowl.

Serves 8

800g (1 3/4lb) whole beetroot

225g (8oz) chopped onions

50g (2oz) butter

salt, pepper and sugar

approx 1.2 litre (2 pints) of light chicken stock

150ml (5fl oz) pouring cream

300ml (10 fl oz) natural, unsweetened yoghurt

4 tablespoons of chopped chives and chive flowers if available

Wash the beets under a cold running tap with your hands being careful not to break the skin. Leave the little tail on and about 5cm (2 inches) of the stalks intact so as not to allow the beets to bleed.

Place in a saucepan that they fit snugly into and cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and sugar. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer until the beets are cooked. The cooking time depends on the size and they can take anything from 20 minutes for tiny little beets to 2 hours for larger ones. They are cooked when the skin rubs off really easily. Don’t use a knife to test if they are cooked, as this will also cause bleeding.

While the beets are cooking, melt the butter and allow to foam. Add the onions, coat in the butter, cover tightly and sweat very gently until soft, tender and uncolored.

When the beets are cooked, peel, chop coarsely and add to the onions.

Add just enough boiling chicken stock to cover and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for just 1 minute.

Now purée to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Allow to cool completely. Add yoghurt and a little cream to taste. Check seasoning adding a little sugar if necessary.

Serve chilled with a swirl of yoghurt and lots of chopped chives and a few chive flowers if available.

Pickled Beetroot

Serves 5-6

1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot

8 oz (225g) sugar

16 fl oz (475ml) water

8 fl oz (250ml) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beets and leave to cool.

Beetroot Tops

Beetroot tops are full of flavour and are often unnecessarily discarded – if you grow your own remember to cook them as well as the beetroot.  When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl both in terms of nutrition and flavour.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops

Butter or olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the stalks and leaves into approx. 2 inch pieces, keep separate.  First cook the stalks in boiling salted water (3 pints water to 1½ teaspoons salt) for 3-4 minutes or until tender.   Just add the leaves and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.  

Drain, season and toss in a little butter or olive oil.   Serve immediately.

Beetroot Tops with Cream

Substitute 75-125ml (3-4fl.ozs) cream for olive oil in the recipe above.   A little freshly grated nutmeg is also delicious.

Ottolenghi’s Pureed Beetroot with Yoghurt and Za’atar

Serves 6

900g (2lb) medium beetroots – (500g (18oz) after cooking and peeling)

2 garlic cloves – crushed

1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

250g (9oz) Greek yoghurt

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) date syrup

3 tablespoons (4 1/2 American tablespoons) olive oil, plus extra to finish the dish

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) za’atar

salt

To Garnish

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

15g (3 /4 oz) toasted hazelnuts or pistachio nuts, roughly crushed

60g (2 1/2 oz) soft goats cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Wash the beetroot and place in a roasting tin. Put them in the oven and cook, uncovered, until a knife slices easily into the centre, approximately 1 hour. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut each into about 6 pieces. Allow to cool down.

Place the beetroot, garlic, chilli and yoghurt in a food processor bowl and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the date syrup, olive oil, za’atar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Taste and add more salt if you like.

Transfer the mash onto a flat serving plate and use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture around the plate. Scatter the spring onion, hazelnuts or pistachios and cheese on top and finally drizzle with a bit of oil Serve at room temperature.

Beetroot and Walnut Cake

Serves 10

3 free-range organic eggs

150ml (5fl oz) sunflower oil

25g (1oz) soft brown sugar

150g (5oz) white or spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

100g (4oz) beetroot, grated

60g (2 1/4oz) sultanas

60g (2 1/4oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Icing

175g (6oz) icing sugar

3-4 tablespoons water to bind

To Decorate

deep-fried beetroot (see below)

toasted pumpkin seeds

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Line a loaf tin with a butter paper or baking parchment. 

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until smooth.   Sift in the flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt and gently mix into the egg mixture.  Stir in the grated beetroot, sultanas and walnuts.   Pour into the prepared tin.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Next make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar, beat in the water gradually to a stiff but spreadable consistency. Spread evenly over the cake, allow to drizzle down the sides, leave for 5 minutes and scatter with deep-fried beetroot (see below) and pumpkin seeds.

To Deep-fry Beetroot

Peel the outer skin off the beetroot.  Using a peeler, slice thin rings of the beetroot.  Allow to dry on kitchen paper for 20 minutes.  Deep-fry until crispy.

Tomatoes…

The garden is absolutely bursting with beautiful fresh produce at present, summer vegetables, berries, currants, edible flowers….. scarcely enough meal slots to get around to using it all.

This week I’m just going to focus on tomatoes. . . A delicious reward for all the seed sowing, watering, pruning and harvesting.

We used to be commercial tomato growers, my father-in-law, Ivan Allen built his first glasshouse in Shanagarry in the late 1920’s but nowadays we only grow small quantities but many varieties.  Lots and lots of cherry tomatoes because they tend to be more productive than the larger tomatoes, super easy to grow and deliciously sweet when allowed to ripen on the vine.

We grow both red and yellow varieties; Sun-Gold is a relatively new hybrid, bred for its tangy sweet flavour. It ripens to a golden orange colour and tends to split when really ripe but that doesn’t bother me.

We also grow over 25 different varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes. The seeds for these open pollinated, non-hybrid cultivars were carefully passed on from one dedicated seed saver to another at a time when many of these tomatoes were not considered worth growing because they had a shorter shelf life, a lower yield and didn’t fit the supermarket criteria for a uniform product.

Commercial tomatoes were picked off the plant under-ripe and became progressively less flavourful, particularly during winter months. Consumers moaned and surprisingly the plant breeders and supermarkets listened….first we got vine-ripened tomatoes which were supposedly better and certainly more expensive but rarely more flavourful.

Next, there were varieties that were grown ‘for flavour’ no less, which begs the question, what exactly were they grown for previously?  Well, we all know the answer – profit of course, all part of the relentless commodification of food, absolutely nothing to do with nourishment, nutrient density or flavour.

Back to the heirloom tomatoes – there are literally hundreds of different varieties of every size, shape and colour.  Some are round, others pear shaped, elongated, heart shaped, pleated…..Some plants produce only 3 or 4  tomatoes weighing up to a kilo each, others like the wild Argentinian are smaller than a marble but produce 20 or 30 intensely sweet, teeny weeny, super cute fruit on each truss. We love them and so do the grandchildren who eat them like smarties.  We just have the red variety this year but there’s also a yellow version called Gold-Rush currant that gets good press to put on next year’s list.

Each tomato variety has an intriguing story but best of all, each tastes different, many are super juicy, some are tart, others have complex bittersweet flavours, not just the one dimensional sweetness that some of the newer varieties now have.

I first came across some of these heritage tomatoes at the San Francisco Farmers Market in California over 20 years ago, strange looking tomatoes bursting with flavour, bizarre shapes, intriguing names…The word quickly spread and customers craving flavour flocked to buy them.  Soon they were on the supermarket shelves, grown commercially but sadly, a shadow of the originals and once again much more expensive.

Reality is, if we want tomatoes bursting with sunny flavour, we need to grow our own or buy from home gardeners, Farmers Markets or from local shops.

Some of my favourite varieties are Oxheart (a red or yellow meaty tomato), Brandy Wine, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra (a juicy green fleshed tomato), Yellow Pear (bright yellow and pear shaped), Dancing with the Smurfs (an amazing slightly tart purple, blue tomato that develops a red tinge when completely ripe.  Speckled Roman, a beautiful elongated tiger striped tomato and Burpee Delight, Black Russian, Orange Bourgoin, Tigerella, all super delicious.

But a word of caution, just because they are heirloom tomatoes doesn’t necessarily mean they will taste great.  Choose tomatoes that smell intensely tomatoey and feel heavy for their size, that means they will be deliciously juicy.

A few recipes to celebrate your delicious harvest…

Gazpacho

We love to make this cold soup in the Summer with the vine ripened tomatoes in the greenhouses that are bursting with flavour – serve as a starter or as a refreshing drink for picnics.

Serves 4-6

700g (1 1/2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

3 thick slices good quality stale bread, crusts removed and chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

425ml (15fl oz pint) fresh tomato juice

2 roast and peeled red peppers

110g (4oz) onion, peeled and chopped

1 medium cucumber, chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise optional

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper and sugar

Garnish

2 red peppers, deseeded and finely diced

1 small cucumber, finely diced

4 very ripe tomatoes, finely diced

4 slices bread made into tiny croutons and fried in olive oil

2 tablespoons diced black olives or small whole olives

1 small onion, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint

Put the tomatoes, chopped bread, crushed garlic, tomato juice, roasted red pepper, chopped onion, cucumber, olive oil and mayonnaise into a food processor or blender. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Whizz until smooth. Dilute with water and chill, taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve the garnish in separate bowls. Guests help themselves, the soup should be thick with garnish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, on a very hot day and add an ice cube or two if you wish.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Runny Honey

The Ballymaloe Cookery School stall at the Midleton Farmers’ Market has a unique selection of organic heirloom tomatoes from the greenhouses in all shapes and sizes. Red, yellow, black, striped, round, pear shaped and oval. They make a divine tomato salad and are wonderful with fresh buffalo mozzarella or ricotta and lots of fresh basil.

Serves 4

8 very ripe heirloom tomatoes

Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1–2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons runny honey

2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, torn

Cut the tomatoes into haphazard shapes. Sprinkle with flaky salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix the oil, lemon juice and honey together. Add the basil leaves, pour the mixture over the tomatoes and toss gently. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. A little freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavour in a very delicious way. Serve immediately with fresh baked crusty bread.

 Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

This gorgeous tart was inspired by a photo on the cover of Delicious magazine last year.  The ricotta and pecorino filling is uncooked so assemble close to the time of eating.  Best made in late summer or early autumn when the tomatoes are exquisitely sweet.  We use the delicious buffalo ricotta made in West Cork.

Serves 8

170g (6 oz) of Savoury Short Crust Pastry

Filling

250g (9oz) buffalo ricotta

100g (3 1/2oz) Pecorino, grated on a microplane

2 tablespoons double cream

extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons basil, mint or thyme and marjoram or a mixture

lemon zest of half an organic lemon

flaky sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

650g (1lb 6oz) mixed heritage and cherry tomatoes – we used striped zebra (green), red and yellow cherry tomatoes

basil leaves

First make the pastry. Cover, chill and line a tart tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in a moderate oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.

Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-10 minutes or until almost cooked. Cool.

Meanwhile put the ricotta into a bowl, add the pecorino, double cream, extra virgin olive oil, honey, freshly chopped herbs, grated lemon zest, flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Mix gently, taste and correct the seasoning.

Taste a little dollop with a slice of tomato, correct the seasoning if necessary, you may need a little more honey.

Not long before serving spoon the ricotta filling into the fully cooked pastry case, slice the tomatoes thinly, arrange the bigger ones, including green zebra on top of the ricotta first. Then add a mixture of the smaller cherry ones cut in half lengthways and crosswise to cover the whole surface. 

Season with flaky sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, a little drizzle of remaining honey, (about a half teaspoon)  and lots of thyme, marjoram leaves and some little basil leaves.

Serve soon.

 Chettinad Tomato Rice

I first tasted this dish at The Bangala in Karakudi in South India – delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to a piece of pan grilled fish or chicken breast.

Serves 12

100g (3 1/2oz) ghee or clarified butter

100g (3 1/2oz) vegetable oil

2 pieces (2 inches) cinnamon sticks

4 pods of green cardamom

2 bay leaves

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 green chillies, split in half

3 large ripe tomatoes (300g/10oz), blanched, peeled and finely chopped (like a thick purée)

500g (18oz) Basmati rice, soaked for 15 – 30 minutes

900ml (1.6 pints) water or chicken stock

225ml (8fl oz) coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons salt to taste, needs plenty

Heat a deep saucepan. Add the oil and ghee or clarified butter.

Add the cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves.

Add the chopped onion and green chillies. Sauté until all the ingredients turn a pale golden colour. Add the raw tomatoes. Stir for 3-4 minutes. Add soaked and drained rice, chicken stock or water, coconut milk, salt and turmeric.  Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid. Cook on gentle heat until the rice is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes approximately.

Remove from the heat. Keep pan covered until serving.

Confit of Tomatoes

This method concentrates the flavour of the tomatoes deliciously. The oil absorbs the flavour of the tomatoes and will, of course, enhance dressings and salads.  Serve on grilled bread, with pasta, mozzarella and fish.

Makes 3 x 370g (13oz) jars approximately

1.3kg (3lbs) ripe small or cherry tomatoes

5- 6 garlic cloves, slightly crushed

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

extra virgin olive oil, to cover

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Choose an ovenproof dish that will just fit the tomatoes in a single layer.  Remove the calyxes from the tomatoes and arrange them in the dish.  Tuck a few garlic cloves and the sprigs of thyme in here and there between the tomatoes.  Just cover with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until soft and tender.  Eat immediately or allow to cool.  Store in a sterilised jar covered in the oil and use within a week or so.

Eat immediately or leave to cool then store in a sterilised jar covered in the oil and use within a week or so.

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