Thursday, August 9, 2012

La bonne vie

One of the best things about living in France is, yes, the weather!
Sunshine is plentiful in the Charente-Maritime and the mild climate, rich soil, and space afforded us here means that growing your own fruit and veg is a cinch.
All rural dwellers will boast a 'potager' usually consisting of, amongst other things, miles of leeks, lettuces so voluminous they would struggle to fit into your average supermarket bag and, without exception, rows of tomato plants laden with juicy, unlikely shaped fruit.
I am no Barbara, but a little bit of the Good Life has been created in my back garden plot whose petite size caused much mirth amongst the locals.
My 'skills gap' in home growing was quickly filled by my elderly neighbours whose welcome advice included 'grow what you eat'. Absolutely. No point in having 10 courgette plants each birthing at an alarming rate when you are the only member of the family that will go within a mile of them. OK, so I have made some mistakes as a novice and I have the jars of chutney to prove it. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall devotees will no doubt be familiar with his recipe for Glutney which is in fact the reason I DO grow one courgette plant every year. 
Tomatoes, however are a very different matter and are allowed to inhabit a much larger portion of the patch, having truly earned their prime, sun drenched position. From the misshapen ( read ugly) but stupendously flavoursome Marmande variety to the dainty 'bonbon' of the tomato world, the cherry. 
So what can't you do with a tomato? Not a lot, really. From soup to bolognaise, from pizza to pasta it has the versatility only matched by the potato. To achieve the elusive 5 a day for their picky children, many a Mum has blitzed them, sneaked them into and hidden them in dishes in a way that no other fruit or veg would forgive them for. A freshly picked tomato is poetical and must NEVER be kept in the fridge. It's why Cheddar was invented.
This roasted tomato salad by Delia Smith has long been a mainstay of our Summer barbecues and with a crusty baguette to mop up the juices, it is the food of gods.

Roasted Tomato Salad

8 large tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil

Skin the tomatoes, cut through the 'equator' and place the halves in a roasting tin (cut side uppermost). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper. 

Sprinkle over the chopped garlic,and drizzle with some olive oil. Top each one with a basil leaf, turning each one over to get a coating of oil.

Roast the tomatoes for 50-60 minutes at 200 c. Allow to cool. 

Transfer them to serving plates making sure you capture all the juices, then whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of balsamic vinegar and drizzle this over the tomatoes. Garnish with some extra basil leaves.They will keep for a couple of days in the fridge but remember to always serve them at room temperature. 

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