Falling for Tumbling Tom


One of my hanging baskets of Tumbling Tom tomatoes

Usually making green tomato chutney is an admission of failure. Your tomatoes haven’t ripened, even when you’ve wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a drawer with a banana for company.

Not this year. I’ve had ripe tomatoes galore around the kitchen door, in growbags, pots and hanging baskets: big bright red ones and juicy red and yellow cherry tomatoes called Tumbling Toms. They have made me salads and sauces, tomato and olive tarts and been roasted in the oven to concentrate the sweetness.

I have had them fried on toast with a sprinkling of herbs as my favourite breakfast. All this without a greenhouse. It must be global warming!

I’ve always loved the scent of tomatoes but have never had much success growing them until recently. It all started when a neighbour asked me to water his plants while on holiday. I was enchanted by the sight of tomatoes cascading from the hanging baskets and was immediately struck down by tomato envy. The following year I grew my own, some from seed. Now, two years on, it’s Tomato Wars on my street!

But it’s getting colder and there are some which are never going to ripen so it is time for green tomato chutney. I turned to a recipe from Nigel Slater but played around with it, adding more spices than his austere version. Here it is.

900g green tomatoes, chopped
300g onions,chopped
90g raisins
250g light muscovado sugar
1 red chilli, deseeded
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
300ml white wine vinegar.

Add all to the pan and proceed as usual for a chutney (see my post, Chutney for chumps).

I hesitate to ‘improve’ on the Master but I didn’t have any white wine vinegar so used up an old bottle of sherry vinegar and replaced the muscovado with granuated sugar. Slater recommends yellow mustard seeds, I had black. I reckoned the chutney needed some extra spice so added two cloves of garlic, a thumb of grated ginger and a couple of teaspoons of garam masala.

There are a lot of tomato skins in this recipe so I cut the tomatoes finely and didn’t add the sugar until halfway through cooking because it tends to harden ingredients.

I filled four medium-sized jars with some left over, which was quickly eaten. I reckon this one is going to improve. It’s tangy but not over hot. And what doesn’t go with my sandwiches can always enhance a curry.


Tomatoes on toast for breakfast

Butternut squash, God and Nigel Slater

Butternut squash 'gnocchi' with walnut pesto

Butternut squash ‘gnocchi’ with walnut pesto

I often think that when God wanted chefs to be able to increase their menu gross profit he made sure two ingredients were on the planet: ham hock and butternut squash. Both are cheap as chips and sell for the price of fish.

The first will give you terrines, soups and stews for pence and the squash is just as versatile. In fact, if you’re like me and Nigel Slater, you don’t throw anything of the latter away. The flesh makes the silkiest soup without any help from cream and the squash can be roasted or stuffed and used in stews and curries.

And I never throw discard those seeds when they can be washed, dried and roasted (if you haven’t got the oven on do it slowly and gently in a dry pan on the hob). Salted, they make a decent snack but I pop them in a jar for the next time I’m making granola.

That just leaves the skin and I’ve just come across a Nigel Slater recipe where he uses it to make crisps to garnish the soup. He peels it off in thin strips which are seasoned, tossed in oil, sherry vinegar and rosemary and baked until crisp, as here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/butternut_squash_soup_90300 I plan to try this soon. Squash also makes a pretty decent filling to pasta or, when mixed with potato or flour, as gnocchi.

I make a butternut squash ‘gnocchi’ – note the quotation marks because it’s not quite the real thing – which I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere before.

I cut the squash into one centimetre slices and, with the aid of an apple corer, stamp out little circular discs which I steam until soft, about five minutes. While they are cooling I make a sort of pesto. Last time out I crushed a few walnuts with some basil (any soft herbs will do when the garden starts to grow) oil, a very little garlic and parmesan.

I then heat oil and butter in a pan, fry the ‘gnocchi’ until gently brown and caramelised, stir in the pesto to coat and serve up on a plate with a few leaves as a simple starter. The sweetness of the squash contrasts against the nutty grittiness of the walnut.

Is it a new dish? If it ain’t, someone will be sure to tell me!

Cutting out the 'gnocchi'

Cutting out the ‘gnocchi’