Tag Archives: Tomato

Wild Garlic Flower and Tomato Salad

I’m determined to make this post a short one; I’ve not got much time because I’ve been squandering it of late. I took a day away from my desk yesterday to go for a walk in the woods. I so rarely allow myself to take time out on a weekday, it’s that ridiculous Protestant work ethic we had drummed into us as children.

Well, it was glorious and now I’m determined to get out more often (I really do need a dog and then perhaps I wouldn’t feel so guilty or self indulgent).  I know that “the simple things…..” message is an old one but I often need reminding myself, so perhaps you do too?


Prior’s Wood is just 15 minutes drive from my home in Bristol and at this time of year it’s renowned for the carpets of bluebells. The bluebells were heavenly yesterday yet I can’t help feeling that the haze of lacy, white wild garlic flowers deserve a shout too. Just like the rest of their allium cousins the flowers are arranged in glorious little star-bursty spheres and look so delicate above the lush green leaves.

The flowers aren’t just pretty , they taste fabulous too – you don’t need many to garnish a salad or a cheese plate so I’m not recommending that you set off with your empty knapsack and pick flower heads for the five thousand. Just a dozen flower heads will be plenty to serve at least four people. Have a taste, each tiny flower has a little bubble of garlicky juices that burst into your mouth as you bite.


Wild garlic leaves are tasty too but by the time the plants are flowering they’ve often become a little bitter. So now’s the perfect season for sprinkling teeny flowers over the first of the English tomatoes, which is exactly what I did for my lunch.


I could have added some young cheese too but those green tomatoes were spectacularly good and I wanted to savour them. So, a dash of extra virgin Arbequina olive oil and a few grains of coarse salt was all I added before garnishing with the flowers.

As I said, the simple things…..

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The fruit fairy came to visit last week and left us a huge basket of tomatoes.

We’re so lucky to have such lovely neighbours. Sacha is not only Imi’s favourite baby sitter, she’s also our guardian angel when it comes to guineas, fish, pot plants and sour doughs when we’re away. Sacha’s the only one who can sing along to all of Pete’s Adge Cutler tracks and then from time to time she drops in with a tray of bargain peaches, figs or tomatoes that she’s picked up for a song at the Sunday market. I, in turn, scurry up the road with pots of cooked dishes from my recipe testing for the latest book or left overs from the cooking classes. It’s a perfect arrangement.

It’s tomato season right now and if you’ve got a green house (I’m very envious) you may even begin to wonder what to do with them all. It’s the only time of year when roasting up an entire tray of fresh tomatoes for a jug of sauce doesn’t seem a ludicrous extravagance.Tomatoes ready for the oven

Roasted Tomato Sauce 

About 12 large tomatoes, cut in half equatorially
1 tbsp sugar ( I love to use light brown Muscovado)
1 heaped tsp salt
A good grind of black pepper
About 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 tbsp  olive oil

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

Put a couple of tablespoons of water into a roasting tray, just to stop the tomatoes from sticking. Lay the tomatoes in the roasting dish, cut side up, and sprinkle with the sugar, salt, pepper, oil and thyme. Roast in an oven at about 170 C/325 F for about 40 minutes until beginning to caramelise/colour in places.

You could just liquidise the lot at this point but I love the smooth texture you get if you push this through a good, old fashioned mouli-legumes (also great for mashed potatoes or extracting stock from prawn shells).

Now just fry up your onion until soft, add the garlic and cook until aromatic and then tip in the tomato puree. Season to taste.

Well -roasted tomatoes

And what to do with your sauce:

We ate some of our sauce with some simple beef meatballs, a few basil leaves and a pile of nutty bulghur wheat. Imi couldn’t keep her freckly nose out, it smelt so good.
The sauce was fabulous stirred into some cooked haricot beans (you could always use canned)
The last scrapings of the pot ended up on sourdough toast topped with some mature cheddar and flashed under the grill.
The options are endless: soup, pasta sauce, zipped up with a bit of chilli and served with sardines or mackerel.

roasted tomato sauce and meatballs

All surplus tomatoes welcome here!

Pan Con Tomate

Pa amb TomaquetThis morning there were two rather soft, slightly wrinkly tomatoes lurking in the fruit bowl, they had pan con tomate written all over them. Why put tomatoes in the fridge? So many shop-bought tomatoes are like bullets anyway and even the most unpromising, cotton -wooly specimens can only improve with a couple of days maturing on the side in the kitchen. If you do happen to forget them for a few days, and they’re past the firm tomato salad stage then they’ll be perfect for squashing on some good toast; the Catalan answer to bread and butter.

I ate my first toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, tomato and then doused with wonderful olive oil, as a child in Ibiza. My memories of the tiny Balearic Island are a million miles from the wild nightclubs that most people that most people think of. My grandparents moved there in the ’60’s and my sister, Libbus, and I spent holidays trudging down the dirt track through the pines to the beach, visiting hippi markets, eating the best peaches in the world, watching geckos and getting sunstroke (thankfully just the once). This month we finally said good bye to Ibiza Gran, who had reached the incredible age of 100. She was a legend: worldly-wise, fabulously outspoken, with a superbly exotic wardrobe (that used to fill me with dread as a teenager) and an unmatched talent for “Spanglish”. As we sat down on the beach at her favourite restaurant Ses Boques (below Es Cubells) I just had to dive into a plate of gambas a la plancha and some pan con tomate with a glass of vino rosado, to toast her on her way. Gran would have been tucking into the alioli too (the feistily pungent garlic emulsion served with bread); she always maintained that garlic was key to good health and long life.

But back to the business of the bread and tomato. It is quite simply one of the very most surprisingly delicious things to do with a tomato and so, so much better than just slicing it onto a piece of bruschetta.

You will need, per person:
A couple of slices of country, rustic or sourdough bread
1 clove of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
1 very ripe tomato, cut in half equatorially
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
A good pinch of salt


The bread is great toasted on a ridged griddle, or better still on a toasting fork over an open fire, but an everyday toaster will do the trick too. It’s definitely not the moment for brown or granary bread, most Spaniards still think that you must have some distressing health problem to even consider eating the stuff but, more to the point, it doesn’t work as well here.

Rub the toast with the cut side of the garlic clove, it’s amazing how much flavour the bread soaks up.

Now squeeze the tomato directly onto the bread, you want as much of the soft flesh as possible, the skin gets thrown out. You can grate the tomato half at a time and you’ll be left with the just the skin in your fingers, it’s a restaurant trick, but I always prefer to squash and squeeze my own.

Drizzle with some delicious extra virgin olive oil (I love the Spanish oils extracted from the tiny Arbequina olives) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Dive in whilst it’s warm.

Pan con Tomate makes a great snack alongside other Tapasy bits like tortilla, calamares or fried artichokes. You could have some, D.I.Y. style, at your next barbeque or you could indulge, as I did, with some sublime Ibérico ham.DSC_7728

And here’s just a glimpse of idyllic Ibiza, for those of you who might think that it’s all about  sweaty DJs, pedalos and cheap sangria. OOh I could do with a bit of that right now.