Tigerella, tomato, vegetable, salad

Orange and red striped Tigerella tomatoes not only look great the flavour is superb too.

By Anne-Marie

A FRIEND has just arrived with that most treasured of gifts, fresh tomatoes, bless her glut. Black Krims, Little Sugars, Tigerella and Cherry Toms surplus to her own requirements, and a generous handful of fresh basil. She has had a good tomato season (mine was awful: I planted them in the wrong place, neglected them badly and missed one of summer’s pleasures). She is one of those natural gardeners who can grow anything without much apparent effort, and she has been a source of wisdom for years.

So I have immediate plans for them, involving garlic and basil and crisp salad greens and some proper rustic croutons warm from the oven, with a herby dressing and some warm, thinly sliced rare beef scattered over the top, and the pan juices poured over to mingle with the dressing. A very satisfactory meal, as long as everything is properly seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. I don’t hold with a lack of seasoning: flavour is all.

My daughter’s new love interest is coming for dinner. She’ll use the cherry toms and basil with olive oil and butter and chicken stock to make a simple pasta dish and shave some fresh parmesan over it. I like this boyfriend: he has chooks and loves fishing, so he arrives with free-range eggs and achingly fresh fillets. He has quite won me over.

Marieke Brugman at Howqua Dale does a wonderful savoury tarte tatin with tomatoes. But for many people, cooking a tomato is a sin, like cooking oysters. Our favourite way to eat tomatoes is warm from the vine, or to chop them roughly and macerate in a bowl with good olive oil, basil, and plenty of salt and pepper (and sometimes a pinch of sugar), then pile them on to warm grilled sourdough or ciabatta. Can’t beat it.

tomatoes, salad, cut, black, yellow, red

Red and yellow tomatoes make a vibrant and delicious salad.

If you are lucky enough to have Mediterranean friends you might score some tomato seeds from Greece or Italy. I have 15 recipes for panzanella, that lovely bread and tomato salad. Google it and take your pick!

Years ago I saw Ian Parmenter make a tomato consommé, involving much straining of juice through muslin (I’d use a clean Chux) and hours of work that was obviously well worth it. I think he may have jellied it after all that, and one day I will do it myself – when I have a whole day to spare. Just as rewarding and a lot less effort is a shot glass with an oyster at the bottom and a Bloody Mary over the top – my favourite Christmas Day breakfast. You shouldn’t really eat oysters in the summer because they’re spawning and they’re too creamy, but I make an exception on Christmas Day. And in May and June and July, I try to really appreciate them.

Joanne Glynn’s slow-roasted balsamic tomatoes are great with grilled fish or meat, or as part of an antipasto platter. The recipe is at the end – it’s from Slow Cooking, Murdoch Books, Sydney 2004. (Buy it from your local bookstore or borrow it from from your library, if you please – it doesn’t do to support Amazon or chain stores when our independent bookshops are struggling against multinationals. The garden is not the only place where diversity might save the planet.) — AMS

Slow-Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes

10 firm, ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tablespoons caster sugar

4 tablespoons torn basil leaves

4 teaspoons chopped oregano leaves

Few drops balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Slice each tomato lengthways into quarters and put the quarters in rows on the trays.

Mix the garlic with the sugar, basil, oregano and balsamic vinegar. With clean fingers, put a little of the mixture on to the sides of each tomato quarter and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for 2.5 hours. The tomatoes are ready when they are slightly shrivelled at the edge and semi-dried (they should still be soft in the middle). Eat warm or cold and store in the fridge.

Tomatoes, Little Sugar Yellow, salad,

Little sugar yellow tomatoes make a delightful sweet bite with true tomato taste