FALSE APPEARANCE Some European tomato gluts currently available at special offer prices can look beautifully red and enticing but often there’s no great heart to them.
Tomatoes, known to many as ‘love apples’, were indigenous to the Americas but were taken back to Europe by the Conquistadores - and are still a major love in my life.
Botanically a fruit (to which eight-year-old Penny says ‘Wow’!), we use them in savoury dishes. At this time of year, our homegrown ones are but budding seedlings. It’s too late to grow them from seed now but the garden centres are selling young plants that will sort you out. There are thousands of varieties, some dull, many amazing. My favourite is the Sungold H1 hybrid plant. Its cherry tomatoes will fruit from August to October. They are very unspectacular looking. A light, wishy-washy orange. You are almost loath to put one in your mouth. But once you do, be ready for a shock.It’s the most unexpected, sweet, explosion of flavour you never expected.
Right now, our supermarkets are flogging early European tomato gluts at special offer prices. Some of them look beautifully red and enticing but often there’s no great heart to them. Yet, for a tasty tomato salad, from even the most basic tomatoes, any finely chopped tomatoes can be vastly improved with a liberal pinch of sea salt, seasoning, and a sprinkle of a good olive oil - thanks to Angelo from La Bella Vita for his great Tomato Bruschetta. Simple as that. Leave stand for 20 minutes or add finely chopped garlic. We are used to the tomato/basil partnership and it’s an indisputably good match, but you might try using fresh oregano leaves. Buy your own plant, pop it in a flower pot in the garden and uses it till late autumn for tomato salads and pizza toppings. To improve your tomato salad immensely, try wild garlic if you can find it. The season for it is really finishing, you can always try finely chopped chives.
Here’s a really simple, cheap but very satisfying ad hoc dish I’ve been making recently.
Red’s ‘Early Summer Mezze’
The combination of smoked mackerel goes really well with a beetroot relish, the mustardy mayonnaise perfectly complements a soft-boiled egg, the springs greens add crunch and bite, Yum!
What you need
- 1kg x new potatoes (the most delicious you can find)
- 4 x fillets of smoked Irish mackerel
- 8 x semi-hard boiled free range eggs mustardy mayonnaise - add a teaspoon of hot mustard to six tablespoons of mayonnaise (this is to place atop the halved eggs), lots of fresh salad greens
- 1 x basic tomato salad as described above,
- 8 x finely chopped radishes, some beetroot relish
- 1 x pack of feta cheese
- Wild garlic flowers to decorate the lot.
- A full glug of good quality oil
- Half the amount of vinegar
What you do next
Steam your new potatoes, place in a big bowl on the table with a sprinkling of sea salt and a big knob of butter. Wash and spin your salad greens, add the finely chopped radishes – early season have a touch of heat and fire! Crumble the feta cheese over the top.
Boil the eggs for five minutes in water (cook with a good shot of vinegar and also run under cold water tap afterwards to make peeling easier). Peel and halve the eggs, put on plates alongside one smoked mackerel fillet for each person. Get everyone to help themselves to the greens and tomato salad (recipe earlier) in bowls, use the dressing from a jug besides salad bowls, and try garlic flowers for a picturesque and delicious late spring mezze.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.