Nigel Slater’s tomato recipes

With the autumn glut goes a final chance to enjoy homegrown tomatoes as the main event in stews and curries, by Nigel Slater

It is now, as the summer dips into autumn, that tomatoes are at their best. They are the last few carries of home-grown fruit before the plants wither to a crisp and head off to the compost. A bit of a mixed bag to be honest, but I like that. The chance to match up the tiny Sungold, Green Zebra and those fat yellow fruit with their flashing of carmine. The opportunity to marry the sharp with the oversweet, the pear with the cherry, the green with those on the verge of breakdown. All up-and-comers are welcome.

I threw odds and sods from the trays at the greengrocers at a vegetable stew last week, spicing the rust-coloured slush with chilli, turmeric and garlic, then stirring in a spoonful of sticky tamarind paste to give a lift to the imbuing late-summer sweetness. I griddled courgettes, currently cheap as chips, and added them at the last minute so they maintained some texture. We passed the big bowl along the table, a last snack in the succumbing sunshine, everyone dipping into rice studded with cloves and cumin seeds, then spooning over the spiced tomato stew.

I like the way bread soaks up the tomatos juices, be it in an Italian pappa al pomodoro, the soft-textured soup-salad; a Provenal pan bagnat( more tomatoes than tuna for me, please) or a simple breakfast of grilled tomatoes on white toast, the leading edge of the bread smoked from the grill, then soaked with tart juice. I made a plate of sandwiches this week, too, constructing first a basil, olive oil and garlic paste to use in lieu of butter. Better, I believe, was the one I built later utilizing coriander, chillies and yogurt a kind of fresh chutney really.

A pinch of sugar will sort out any end-of-season fruit that let you down. Add it with the salt and black pepper. Even the meanest shake of caster will do more than you might imagine. I like to bake a dish of halved fruit of all shapes and sizes, their surfaces spread with a loose dres of garlic, olive oil, a splashing of red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a fistful of mixed fresh herbs. The trick is to make the paste runny enough to baste the tomatoes as they roast, and have something under them to mop up the juices a raft of toast or flatbread, or a slice of focaccia. Its the tomatos final fling.

Courgettes and spiced tomatoes

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Final fling: courgettes and spiced tomatoes. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

A curry, of kinds. The turmeric adds its characteristic earthy note, the tamarind paste a greeting, mellowed sourness. There is heat, too, from the chillies and mustard seeds, but the overall impact is light, bright and sweet-sharp. Rice steamed with a chopped shallot, a few cleaves, a bay leaf or two and its snow-white depths freckled with cumin seeds is a given.

Serves 4
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
yellow mustard seeds 1 tsp
onion 1, medium
hot green chilli 1, small
cherry tomatoes 700 g
tamarind paste tsp
ground turmeric 1 tsp
chilli powder tsp
courgettes 6, medium
steamed rice to serve

Warm the groundnut petroleum in a shallow pan, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a minute or two till fragrant. Peel and finely chop the onion then add it to the spices, together with the finely chopped green chilli. Stirring regularly, let the onion cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until translucent.

Halve the tomatoes and drop-off them into a bowl, then combination with the tamarind paste, ground turmeric and chilli powder, mashing it all together with a wooden spoon. When the onion has softened but before it starts to change colour, stir in the tomatoes and a little salt, partly cover with a lid and simmer for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes have collapsed into a rough, scarlet sauce.

Slice the courgettes into short lengths, about 4 or 5 to each fruit, then cook on a griddle until gently browned on the outside.( Alternatively you can fry them in a shallow pan with a little olive oil .) Transfer the browned courgettes to the spiced tomato and simmer for a further 10 minutes until each piece is fully tender.

Serve with the steamed rice.

Tomato sandwich with coriander paste

I often use cucumbers or a cool salad foliage as well as the tomato. Avoid rocket and watercress which add too much heat, and go instead for cooling leaves, such as little gem, iceberg or butterhead lettuce.

Makes 2 big sandwiches.

For the sandwiches:
sourdough, white or rye bread 4 slices
tomatoes 250 g, assorted sizes
coriander paste see below

For the paste:
coriander 70 g
lime juice 2 tbsp
sugar to 1 tsp
green chillies 1-2, small
ginger a 70 g piece
natural yogurt 6-7 tbsp

Remove the foliages from the coriander. Put the lime juice, sugar, chilli( one or both, depending on your heat threshold ), ginger( peeled and approximately sliced) and the yogurt into the jug of a blender and process to a coarse paste. Add the coriander leaves and a little salt and process further. The paste should be pungent, somewhat citrus, sour and hot. Add sugar, yogurt or more lime juice to taste.

Slice the tomatoes thinly. Spread each piece of bread liberally with some of the coriander paste, then place the tomato slices on top. Place a piece of the spread bread on top and press down softly. Store any leftover paste, covered, in the fridge.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater @observer. co.uk or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater

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