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Do you ever eat a meal you’ve cooked numerous times and think, “perhaps this is my favourite meal ever”? I do. I always seem to be wondering what my favourite food or meal is, that if I had one last dinner to enjoy what would I choose?
I’ve decided that this is perhaps mine.
Someone on Instagram mentioned they’d love a recipe for my tomato pasta after I shared a picture on our Wales holiday. And although I almost don’t think it’s worthy of being called a ‘recipe’ or for me to tell anyone how to make something so simple, here it is.
It is basically pasta with a tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, cooked very quickly. I’m sure that I was inspired to first make this after watching a TV programme where an Italian chef on the Amalfi coast in a very posh hotel was making a tomato sauce for pasta this way.
I’m pretty sure that the quality of your tomatoes matters in this dish, after all you’re hardly adding any other flavours and if you use out-of-season-wishy-washy pale looking tomatoes I think it would taste pretty miserable. So finding good quality tomatoes, preferably in the summer months when they are at their ripest and in-season is essential.
I have used all kinds of tomatoes to make this sauce – larger ones cut up, cherry tomatoes left whole, cherry tomatoes cut in half, cherry tomatoes cut into quarters, multi-coloured tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or a mixture of whatever I have to hand.
All you want to ensure is that they are roughly the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
Doesn’t food taste better when it looks pretty? I certainly believe so. I completely wrecked my fried egg the other day, had a complete tantrum about it and ended up literally flinging everything onto the plate – I was so mad about it looking crappy that I’m convinced I didn’t enjoy it as much.
This homemade gazpacho is one of my favourite pretty looking dishes I’ve made in recent weeks – the colours are just so summery and inviting. Plus it’s very tasty and with this current heat wave I could eat bowlfuls of this chilled soup. There was some interest on my Instagram about the recipe for it, so here it is.
So here it is, I’ve finally reached the final instalment of our June trip to the Dordogne. If you’ve just arrived and would like to read from the beginning, click here for all the posts and just work from part 1 onwards.
It wouldn’t have been right if we didn’t start our last day in the Dordogne with a visit to a market, after all we had been to a market every single day so far. In our sights was the market at Riberac, and we weren’t disappointed. It was large and bustling, full of food producers and artists, as well as cheap T-shirts and bargain items.
There were a lot of English people here, I even spotted a hessian shopping bag from our local grocery in Manchester where I shop every week – now that was odd. We came across our friendly gite owner Louise selling her goat’s cheese, not that I seem to have taken a picture of her stall.
Look at those mushrooms – and every mushroom stall in the Dordogne seemed to be decorated with ferns.
I am really enjoying our meat-free month and not really finding it a challenge so far – it’s really great to be trying out a lot of recipes that I would usually not cook because we seem to default to others. The only downside was this evening realising that we couldn’t eat fish and chips at the pub – I was pretty gutted.
Monday 16th January
Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup from the Riverford Cookbook. Pumpkin and tomato soup with a hint of chilli, topped with crumbled tortilla chips, avocado chunks tossed in lime juice, grated Jarlesburg, and coriander.
Utterly, utterly amazing. It’s always those dishes that you want to like, but don’t think you really will, maybe because it contains an ingredient you don’t think you like, and WHAM – so delicious! If there’s one recipe so far I would recommend you make, it would be this one.
Tuesday 17th January
Mushrooms, creme fraiche and pasta. This is Hugh’s mushroom risioniotto…at least I think that’s what it’s called. He does make up some odd names. It’s basically tiny pasta that looks like rice, I love it, it’s very comforting and moreish – probably because you can eat big mouthfuls of it along with some rich sauce. The mushrooms were simply fried in butter until they start to go golden, then some wine and creme fraiche stirred through to make a sauce. I miss calculated the amount of mushrooms and did half the recipe…turns out it was only for 2 people so I definitely won’t mess this up next time, as it did need more mushrooms.
Wednesday 18th January
Roasted tomato and mozzarella risotto. Another from Hugh’s trust Everyday Veg book, and one that we had been cooking regularly before we even considered doing a meat-free month. Yes, perhaps eating tomatoes in January isn’t the most seasonal choice, but my body was craving it and they were bought from Unicorn Grocery in Manchester so not as bad a supermarket tomatoes.
Hugh’s recipe uses a roasted tomato sauce that he also provides a separate recipe for – I just sliced a whole load of plum tomatoes in half and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, sliced garlic and herbs until they were soft and gooey. I think pop the whole lot through my mouli, a carboot bargain that I couldn’t now live without. If the Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup was my top recommended recipe, the mouli would be my top recommended piece of kitchen kit.
I’ve never had much luck with tomatoes, I don’t have a greenhouse and the English weather seems to be terrible to them. Sometimes I get tomatoes, but then the never ripen, maybe I’ve just had the wrong variety or not cared for them enough.
It must be said, I like my plants (ornamental or edible) to not need a lot of care, I like them to get on with growing without having to be fussed over and tended to too often. That being said, this year, one of my three tomatoes plants is doing really well.
I bought a set of three Jamie Oliver tomato plants, I really liked that they all came as different varieties – I chose a set that had a red variety called Tomatoberry (this is the one that’s doing well), a green and orange striped one called Green Zebra (a few tomatoes on that, none ripening yet), and a yellow variety that hasn’t done well at all.
I love wandering around our allotments, mainly feeling sad that ours doesn’t quite cut the mustard! I find it so interesting to see the different ways in which people grow things, how some plots are wild and sprawling, while others are neat with wooden boards and smart sheds.
So here’s a look around our allotments in Partington…
I love the brick path that has been set into the ground…
It is so warm at the moment that we are enjoying lots of meals eaten in the garden. We have a tiny little red metal table and two chairs, providing just enough space to squeeze on dinner for two.
Tonight we ate crusty bread…thin slices of French sausisson…fat pieces of Parma ham…my favourite cheese at the moment Brebirousse…
…and a bowl of warm tomatoes with torn chunks of milky buffalo mozzarella and drizzled with lots of extra virgin olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.
Simple food is always good food.
Tonight we enjoyed a picnic dinner at our allotment after an hour or two of raised bed construction. This is what we managed to achieve – one half of my new herb bed:
We ate Majorcan new potatoes boiled then smothered hot in goat’s butter and lots of salt and pepper … grilled blackened sausages from Little Heath Farm in Dunham Massey dunked in Wilkin & Son’s tomato ketchup …
sliced tomatoes sprinkled liberally with salt and garnished with torn basil leaves (totally unseasonal but irresistable as the weather starts to warm) …
and slices of coffee coloured seeded bread from Red House Farm smeared with Oxford Blue cheese …
Sitting on an old rug looking out over our allotment eating good grub – what a blissful way to spend a weekday evening. Buddy peered down at us from the boot of the car, his nose twitching as the smell of sausages wafted up his nostrils.
Two little robins hopped around the allotments, perched on the spade…
then a tub of chicken manure pellets…
and finally an orange plastic bottle balanced atop a bamboo cane…
This is my recipe for homemade tomato soup. It’s got a nice tang to it from the addition of some sundried tomatoes, and is a delicious meal in winter or summer. There’s so many ways you can serve it – with crusty white bread spread thickly with butter, a dollop of cream cheese, crème fraîche swirled through it, a drizzle of olive oil, toasted pitta bread, a sprig of basil. Or what I really liked as a child was to put a big knob of salty butter into the middle, wait for it to melt and then swirl it in – probably not very healthy, but I loved that extra smooth salty edge it gave the soup.
Homemade Tomato Soup
2 small shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
Tin of plum or cherry tomatoes
Bunch of thyme, leaves only
400-500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Start by softened the chopped shallots over a medium heat. Once they have softened and started to turn translucent, add the sundried tomatoes and thyme leaves.
If you can’t be bothered or don’t have the time to pick off all the leaves, pop the whole sprigs in to impart their flavour – just before you blend the soup remember to remove the sprigs or you’ll end up with bits of twig in every mouthful…it’s not pleasant!
After a couple of minutes, add the tinned tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon.
Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, remove any sprigs of thyme if left whole, and blend to a smooth puree.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and eat straightaway however you wish.