Every cook craves them, a sexy tomato stash! Tomatoes can be the most wonderful ingredient on the planet or the most insipid, watery ball of red nonsense (aka most supermarket fodder). Jane and I know our way around a tomato after spending plenty of time in Spain where we are surrounded by tomato plantations, normally growing toms for the Northern Europe market.
We have struggled in the early part of this year to get our hands on good produce and feel chuffed to have found the brilliant people at The Tomato Stall to supply us with fresh tomatoes; the most incredible oak smoked tomatoes and even a seriously kickin’ ginger chilli chutney.
The Tomato Stall have a wide range of products from ketchup to juice and I’ve chatted with Kelly over there at length about all things TOMS and they are seriously passionate about what they do and the proof is in produce. They grow many heirloom varieties, all additive free and mostly organic and all bursting with flavour and oh so juicy.
Beautiful bowl of TOMS
We ate most of our bounty raw, like a box of chocolates, but way cooler. There are so many colours; yellow, greens, speckled, vivid reds and even some they call black (more very dark green really). The flavours of each variety were distinctly different; some sweeter, some more citrus; some meaty, some just exploded with juice. With tomatoes like this it does seem a shame to cook them or tamper with the flavour, they are best served simply with maybe some extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. That’s sounding like one of the worlds greatest salads!
We will be switching to local tomatoes when the crops come in (hopefully in a few weeks) but have no issues ordering tomatoes from the Isle of Wight when they are this wonderful (did we mention that the oak smoked tomatoes are one of the best things to pass our lips in a long time!) Great tomatoes are so difficult to come by on this island and these are grown in Britain and not giant plastic plantations in Spain or Italy.
If you are struggling to get your hands on good tomatoes in the UK, let Kelly know and they’ll send some to a farm shop near you.
We love to have the opportunity to spread the good word of passionate food producers who are doing things properly. If you are crazy about food and would like to send us a sample of your produce, we’ll taste them and let you know what we think. We may even stick them on the Beach House Kitchen.
PS – Tomato a fruit or vegetable? It seems obvious, but still a little room for debate. Tomatoes just don’t quite go in a fruit salad!
With tomatoes literally (almost!) falling from vines before our eyes, this is a curry that is local spice bonanza. For many years I’ve been hunched over a bubbling pot of fragrant curry masala: a spoonful here, a spoonful there; ever seeking perfection in blends of spices and sometimes herbs. This is not it, but its mighty close.
Some of my spices are straight from India, brought back on the plane in my backpack. The pack itself stunk like a Mumbai spice shop, fortunately I flew Egypt Air, Egyptians are no strangers to aromatic spices themselves. During the flight, I got vague sniffs of cumin and turmeric, I knew where they were coming from and I smiled, safe in the knowledge that I was smuggling curried gold dust.
People seem put off by curries, the list of ingredients itself can be daunting. It’s actually fairly straightforward, if you are a little organised (which for curries I am). Once you learn the basics of curry making, especially with a healthy tomato base like here, you are off into a world of pungent kitchen happiness.
These tomatoes are curiously named ‘Rambo’. I have no idea why and when I asked the tomato man at the market he simply said “Because they are from around here.” with suitable gruffness and disdain. They are a macho lot in these parts after all!
A little snap taken on a rambla walk near our casa.
There are many spices here, not an everyday curry, but one fit for a feast and fine friends. The main difference between Indian food in restaurants and at home is that Indian chefs are not afraid to be wild and free with the spices. They also normally add lashing of ghee (clarified butter) to make it sparkle and tantalise. This tomato curry is perfect for the calorie conscious curry muncher, full of flavour and superbly healthy. This surely is some kind of elixir! After some Indian meals in restaurants I feel quite heavy and lethargic (with a smile on my face however), you don’t get that treatment here.
Please try and buy good spices and keep them out of sunlight and in a sealable container. It is well worth it, a little effort could produce a curry that blows your mind.
This makes one large panful, enough for at least six hungry curry fiends.
6 lovely large and ripe red tomatoes (chop – see below), 1 large onion (sliced), 1 stick of celery (thinly sliced), 8-10 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 1 bulb of fennel (sliced), 1 large red pepper, 2 inch sq of fresh ginger (finely chopped), 2 teas fennel seeds, 1 teas yellow mustard seeds, 2 star anise, 2 teas ground coriander, 1 teas turmeric, 2 teas curry powder (a good one), 1 teas cumin, 8 fresh green cardamoms, ½ teas chilli powder (or as incendiary as you prefer).
Prepare all of your spices, this is quickly cooked and you don’t want to be fumbling around with packets and lids which normally leads me towards turmeric leaks and general chaos. Pop all ground spices into into a dry bowl, and the anise and cardamom into another.
Chop two tomatoes finely, forming something resembling pulp. The rest can be cut into large segments, roughly 8 to a normal sized tomato.
In a hot pan with a good glug of oil, roast off your fennel and peppers until both have colour and a little softness to them. Set aside and cover.
In the same pan on high heat, add more oil (1 tbs) and fry off your onions until soft (5mins) then add your fennel seeds and yellow mustard seeds, give a minute and constantly stir. Then the celery, garlic and ginger, stir in and give another minute and keep it all moving. Then for the spices (being careful not to burn them, add water if needed), add your spices and stir well for couple of minutes, then the cardamom and star anise can be added and the well chopped tomatoes added. Stir well and get all the flavour incorporated from the pan base (that’s the good stuff!)
Cover tightly and lower heat, leave to simmer and infuse for 10 minutes. Stir in your roasted fennel, peppers and tomato segments. Cover again and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.
Try not to stir this curry much at this stage, you want the tomatoes retain their shape and texture.
Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry
Finish with a splash of olive oil stirred in (gives it shine and a little richness) then blob on some yoghurt and brown rice, topped all fresh coriander leaves. The serving style that we like to call ‘A La Beach House’.
We Love It!
One of our favourite homemade curry delights that we’d love you to try. We made it for a recent curry night and there were many mmmmmmm’s.
Fennel is of the same family as parsley, cumin, carraway and dill. Fennel could we be native to Spain and is a highly sought after veg in these parts. Fennel contains many essential oil compounds, anti-oxidants and a good amount of dietary fibre. Although the seeds are the real stars of the fennel plant, packed full of many, many good things.
These little toms are mind-blowingly tasty and light up this fabulous raw soup recipe. We believe they are called Black Princes, but cannot be sure. If they are Black Princes, they originated in Siberia but we picked them up from the wonderful John and Pippa in the small village of Bethel (a couple of valleys away). They are stunning tomatoes to look at, purple and dark green inside and mottled with emerald patches on the outside. The most surprising thing about these tomatoes is that they have been grown organically in Wales (the land of the shy sun). How is this possible? I put it down to great expertise and poly tunnels, 20 years of growing experience also helps! We are so very grateful to the brilliant Pippa and John for eeking out the best of the conditions of this, the wettest and worst summer on this grey island for over 100 years. Can you imagine what they’d do in Spain! Jane and I are almost addicted to these little gems, even scoffing them like popcorn whilst watching a samurai movie recently.
So whats all this about a Black Prince anyway?
Well, the Black Prince (apart from just having the most epic name of any tomato we have encountered) is one of the most popular black tomatoes in the world (more dark green than black to be honest). These toms are classed as an heirloom variety in the U.S. (see the foodie fact below) and have a wonderful deep, rich and fruity flavour. The Black Prince is known as a ‘true Siberian tomato’, which makes it perfect for growing in cooler climates like our little grey island.
They say an Indian summer is coming to these parts, having experienced a couple of these myself in India, I am not sure that this is an accurate description of the potential weather situation. We can however hope for some late summer sun which makes for a perfect raw soup climate. But raw soups are not just for the summertime.
One of the things we both struggled to imagine prior to our month of raw food eating in June, was sitting down in front of our fire in mid-December, all wrapped up warm with thermals on and tucking into a cold soup with a salad. We now know that this would work out just fine. Although the temperature outside is chilly, the effect this kind of soup has on body and mind is seriously rejuvenating and they are absolutely jam packed full with the vitamins etc. that your body needs come the darker months.
This soup really does the black prince toms justice, it’s refreshing and not shy of a few flavours. Whether you feel like sparkling some more, or are getting over a good old-fashioned beer garden adventure, this soup will get you zinging in all the right places.
The juice in the recipe replaces a traditional stock. We have been experimenting with this juicy method and have had some brilliant results in mainly raw soups and stews. No stock can live up to the vibrancy and freshness of a raw juice, especially for a chilled soup like this one. We picked only the freshest flavours here and the combination of the tomatoes, peppers, oranges, chilli, coriander and ginger……well you can imagine! With all those colours in a bowl, expect fireworks!
We like to use a little of the orange zest, it gives it even more pizzazz. The dates are essential to balance the saltiness of the miso. You could use agave syrup or the like if you fancied, but there is something wonderful about adding dates to savoury food. Avocado is perfect in soups, but does mean that it must be eaten within a day. The avos add creaminess without the cream and are a great little raw food trick.
If you don’t own a juicer, just buy some fresh carrot juice instead. You could also use the same quantity of water, but it would be slightly lacking. You may also omit the sprouted mung beans and still produce a wonderful bowl of happiness, we just had a glut of them to hand.
Black Prince Tomatoes
This recipe is enough for two big bowlfuls with ample seconds.
10 ripe black cherry tomatoes (or the best cherry tomatoes you can get your hands on)
3 ripe tomatoes (the bigger variety)
1 big handful mung bean sprouts
250ml carrot and celery juice (that’s roughly 4 large carrots and 1 stick celery)
1 big handful chopped coriander
1 yellow pepper (chopped)
1 tbsp flax oil (or good olive oil)
2 tsp miso paste
2 cm cube ginger (finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (mashed)
1/2 red chilli (or 1/2 teas chilli flakes)
Juice of 1 orange (with half the zest)
3 finely chopped dates
Make your juice first and then placed all ingredients in a food processor. Blitz and add the juice gradually. We think a minute or so is enough, maintain a few chunks, a longer blitz means a smoother soup.
Just not quite chilled and with a good handful of freshly chopped coriander (cilantro) as a topping and a scattering of sprouted mung beans.
We Love It!
Our favourite raw soup yet!!
Black Prince Cherry Tomato and Coriander Soup
In America ‘heirloom’ veggies are all the rage. The Black Prince is an ‘heirloom’ fruit, which basically means that they are pure seeds and have not been touched by any GM crops. At local markets in Britain, it is great to see people growing our indigenous varieties again, all mis-shapen and knobbly, with real flavours and textures. Many people are single handedly keeping these varieties in existence and passing on these heirlooms to future generations.
Farm fresh veggies from our friends at Trigonos, bring on the salads!
Salad Shirazi is one of my favourite Persian salads and very easy to get together and prepare. This salad seems to be ubiquitous from Delhi to Tangiers, hard vegetables chopped up small with onion and some lemon juice, herbs if you are lucky or decadent or both.
We used some lovely veggies from the farm and added a little courgette because it is that time of year. The mint came from the herb garden and our little taste of Persia was complete.
This salad adds the ideal fresh crunch to rich cuisine and went perfectly with our Persian Aubergine Stew, but is perfect as a salad in its own right. The fresher the produce, the better the salad.
3 medium sized cucumbers, 3 small firm tomatoes, 1 courgette, 2 small sweet onions, 3 tablespoons good olive oil, juice of 1 lemon or lime, 1 handful of fresh mint (chopped, dried mint will do), sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
Cut tomatoes, cucumbers, courgette and onion into small cube-ish pieces and place them in a salad bowl and gently mix. Add salt, pepper, mint, olive oil and lemon juice, mix well.
Persian (or Iranian) food is a favourite of mine, but something I haven’t cooked for a long time. It is similar to Indian food and the food of other areas in the Middle East; namely Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan. Some would say that these countries food cultures are similar to Persian food, after all, they were there first! Ancient Persia, Darius the Great and all, have always sparked my imagination. I hope one day to visit (soon).
THE BEAUTY OF PERSIAN CUISINE
Persian food is beautifully spiced and rich. It’s roots are of course ancient and the oldest Iranian cookbook was written in 927 and was called ‘Kār-nāmeh dar bāb-e tabbākhī va sanat-e ān’ or the “Manual on cooking and its craft”. It offers an exhaustive insight into the complexity and importance of Persian food to the people and the culture. This amazing food tradition has been passed down through the generations, normally from mother to daughter, meaning that the dishes served in Tehran today will not have varied greatly from the time of the ‘Kar-nameh’. This all means that Persians take there food very seriously, authenticity is a must.
Persian food is captivating, I love the emphasis on fresh produce, in London I have seen Iranian housewives shopping down at the markets and they only accept the very freshest of ingredients (giving the stall holders feedback if things aren’t up to scratch!) Persian cuisine uses large amounts of fresh herbs, sometimes it seems they replace the use of vegetables!
A LITTLE HISTORY…….
Persian food has influenced the world of cooking, much more than we know, giving us delights such as ice cream and kebab. Dare I say it, many of North Indian dishes are heavily derived from Persian cuisine. In Mughal times especially, Persian cooks were in high demand in the courts of the ruling caste. These trends filter down into the melting pot of India’s culinary traditions.
The whole vast area of the Middle East has been linked throughout history; cultures mingling and merging throughout the centuries. Iran is a very fertile land with a wonderful array of produce; pistachios, spices, dried limes, fruits, pomegranate, green herbs, the flavours of rose and saffron, all spring to mind and the colours alone get my imagination flowing.
TEHRAN VIA LONDON
My first taste of Persia came in a London backstreet, a place where farsi filled the air and a smiling man made fresh flat breads in a stone oven. The food was so fresh and the flavours striking. I started to experiment with Iranian cooking and found a whole new range of flavours and ingredients to play with. Dried limes for example are unique revelation!
Persian food is very traditional and each dish has set rules to follow, not something I am completely comfortable with, but the results are generally outstanding. My best memories of these Iranian days were the rice (polo) cake that I made. The sort of dish that is so easy and looks very unique, the rice takes the shape of the the pan and forms a nice golden crust. You cut into it like a cake! Served with a delicious Ghormeh Sabzi (Veg and Kidney Bean Stew – Iran’s National Dish) and you have something quite special to enjoy.
Although Persian main dishes revolve around meat and rice, I have found the creative combining of ingredients can easily be related to veggie foods. There are also many vegan stews, salads etc that are popular in Iran, like this Khoresh Bademjan or Aubergine Stew, which traditionally would have a lump of meat in it.
AUBERGINE – ‘THE POTATO OF IRAN’
Aubergine (Egg plant to some) is a staple in Iran and is even known as the ‘potato of Iran’. I love making stews, the gentle simmering nature, the way they fill the house with the homely smell of food. The use of cinnamon here adds such a warming flavour to the dish and the lentils keep nice and firm, giving the stew a very hearty feel.
I know how passionate Iranians are about their food, so I felt it right to seek advice for this recipe and stumbled upon a top Iranian food blogger, Azita at Turmeric and Saffron. Azita’s recipes are traditional and made with love and care, many handed down from her mother. This to me is real heart and soul food, cooked with love and care and a cornerstone of family life and culture all over the world. It is surprising how many of our memories of loved ones revolve around food (or maybe that’s just me!) I have changed the recipe slightly, but kept the authentic flavours in tact.
Iran is such a vast and fascinating land, the dishes served will vary greatly in different regions, I’ll just have to go for a visit and try them all myself! Hopefully you’ll see some holiday snaps on the B.H.K soon. It’s great to be back in the Iranian cooking flow and I hope to be making much more Iranian food.
This makes a big pot full, good enough for four hungry mouths.
3 large aubergines (peeled, sliced into large chunks and salted with 2 tablespoons of salt)
2 courgettes (chopped into large chunks)
4 medium tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 large onion (diced)
4 cloves of garlic (crushed and chopped)
3/4 cup yellow split peas (rinsed)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying onions etc
1/2 cup (60ml) oil for frying aubergines
3 tbs tomato puree
3-4 cups of water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
sea salt and cracked pepper (to taste)
1 lime or to taste (juice) or 2-3 tablespoons sour grapes (ghooreh).
This is Persian food, meaning a very particular way of preparing the dish. Well worth the effort!
Leave your aubergines for 30 minutes with salt rubbed into them. Then place the salted aubergines in a large container filled with water; put a heavy bowl or a heavy lid on top of the eggplants to hold them down for ten minutes, this will get rid of the bitterness. Remove aubergines from container and pat dry completely before frying. (You can skip this step if you’re pushed for time).
Fry the aubergines in 1/2 cup (60ml) of hot oil until brown on both sides, remove and then add the courgette and fry until golden. Place all on a plate lined with thick kitchen paper to drain some of the excess oil.
Using a knife, mark each tomato with a shallow X at the top, place them in a pot of boiling water for five minutes before pulling off the skin, then chop or slice them thinly or just chop the tomatoes skins on (for the time deprived).
In a large saucepan, heat the oil, add chopped onions, saute until translucent then add the garlic, stir well. Sprinkle in the turmeric, salt and pepper and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly. Cook until onions begin to caramelise.
Add dry split peas, fry for five minutes, this will keep the peas more firm in the khoresh. Then add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and three cups of water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for an 35 mins on medium heat.
Add the fried aubergine and courgette to the mixture, adjust the seasoning and add more water if needed.
Cook for another 15 minutes, until all is nice and tender. Add the lime juice or two tablespoons of sour grapes (ghooreh). Let it sit for 10 minutes off the heat, with the lid on. This allows the stew to cool a little, flavours can be impaired by really hot food.
With steaming rice, soya yoghurt (or whipped silken tofu) and a fresh salad shirazi. This dish may also be served with sour grapes (ghooreh), which you can buy in many world food stores.
We Love It!
Jane and I can sit at our table in the Beach House, up in the clouds, and dream of exotic far off lands and ancient cultures…to the blue mosque of Isfahan and back before dessert…..traveling the world one plate at a time. This stew is that good!
The aubergine (or brinjal or eggplant…) is native to India, this fruit comes in all shapes and sizes and is now grown around the world. It is very low in calories and contains much soluble fibre. The skin of aubergine is high in anti-oxidants and it is a good food to help high blood cholesterol and aids metabolism.
Here’s one for when you are in a little bit of a hurry and you need something quick and tasty. Cold soup is a funny one for most people, it can be difficult to get your head around. Cold soups are served all over the world and I can think of many delicious recipes from Spain. It is very much a cultural thing, in Britain we have diabolical weather, which means we normally need a little warmth in our bellies. Soup is so sustaining and comforting, I don’t see why cold soup cannot have the same effect.
We managed to get our hands on a decent amount of lovely tomatoes, rare in these parts and this soup really did them justice. The tomatoes really make this dish and without gorgeous tomatoes, you will struggle to get much flavour. It’s all about tomato here!
Raw food is nutrient dense, which means alot of ingredients. It is not your average soup, which normally relies heavily on a decent stock, its really just one big savoury smoothie!
This is a recipe that has the added richness of an avocado. I love the way that raw food uses things like avocado to add creaminess to dishes, surely better than a blob of clotted cream (no!?). But I must admit, clotted cream is definitely better on a scone.
We added on green chilli here, to add a little mexican style zing to proceedings. It is optional of course. If you’d like it richer, add more avocado, you can never get enough!
So dust off the blender and give this one a whirl. The perfect summer soup, refreshing and filling. You can heat this if you like, it will be nearly as nice!
Makes two big bowlfuls:
8 tomatoes (medium size, chopped into 1/4’s), 1/2 sweet red pepper, 8 sun dried tomatoes (finely chopped/ mashed), 2 cloves garlic (minced, crushed etc), 1/2 medium sweet onion (Spanish are good, finely chopped), 1 big handful of chopped basil leaves, 1 avocado, pinch of good quality sea salt, 1 green chilli (very optional), olive oil for a drizzle
Tomato and Basil Soup (Raw)
All in a blender and pulse until a nice chunky texture is formed, add water if needed to thin out slightly.
We topped ours with sprouts (no surprises there then!) and a couple of basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil maybe?
We Love It!
Nice and rich and refreshing, a great way to use glorious toms!
Basil is regarded as the ‘king of herbs’ and is a holy plant in many cultures. Basil originated in Iran and India. Basil has many anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties, it contains exceptionally high levels of beta carotene, vitamin A, iron and a whole host of other good stuff.