Make the most of a glut of tomatoes
Nothing tastes quite like homegrown fruit and vegetables, which is why we grow as much as we can in our gardens; in particular, it's hard to beat the taste of homegrown tomatoes. If I entrust the man of the house to routine watering of our plants, he is often gone for quite a while. It’s not so much the time it takes to water them that delays his return from the greenhouse, as wrestling with the urge to try just one more tomato for sweetness before closing the door on them for the night.
Inevitably, there comes the time when the tomato plants are buckling under the weight of beautifully ripe, bright red Santorini plum and Tumbling Tom tomatoes, then we have to pick them all.Once harvested, however, tomatoes do not keep for very long, so to reap the benefit of a glut we turn them into tangy relishes to go with cheese, wholesome sauces for pasta, and spiced ketchup. Recipes for such epicurean delights are in abundance in good old fashioned cookery books or online. Ours is adapted from a well-thumbed volume of recipes which extol the virtues of making good use of seasonal produce for pantry staples to be enjoyed long after harvest time.
Aside from freshly picked, flavoursome tomatoes; onions, and celery form the basis of our pasta sauce, along with garlic lifted fresh from the garden and a pot full of lush green, aromatic basil picked from the greenhouse.
Recipe for Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce
This recipe makes use of around 3kg of ripe tomatoes of mixed varieties, which are scored and then scalded in boiling water making it easier to remove the skins. Using a combination of large tomatoes to go with the smaller, sweeter, and plum varieties adds to the overall flavour of the sauce.
Preheat oven (200℃/400℉/fan 180℃/gas mark 6) and add to a large roasting tin:
4 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, peeled to remove strings and cut into 2.5cm lengths
handful of garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
handful of fresh thyme leaves
Lay the prepared tomatoes on the top of the vegetables. In a jug, mix together the following ingredients and pour over the tomatoes:
2 tbls of dark, soft brown sugar
4 tbls of good quality olive oil
3 tbls of red wine vinegar
Cover the tin with foil and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven, lift the foil and toss everything together, re-cover and return the tin to the oven for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.
Once cooled a little, pick out the garlic cloves and squeeze the soft puree over the tomatoes and discard the skins.
Turn the oven temperature down to 160℃/325℉/fan 140℃/gas mark 3
Using a food processor (or hand-held blender in a large pan) blitz the vegetables into a chunky puree. This forms the basis of the pasta sauce. Bring the sauce to the boil and add a generous amount of freshly chopped basil leaves and season to taste. Pour the sauce into warmed sterilised jars, half-close their lids (to allow some steam to vent) and place them in a roasting tin lined with a tea-towel. Our jars typically allow for two servings. Ensure ample space around the jars and add boiling water to the tin to a depth of around 2cm. Bake in the oven for 25minutes. Seal and cool before labelling the jars. Store in a cool, dark place where the sauce will keep for up to 6 months - if you can wait that long!