It may not feel much like summer out there (it’s so dark in my office that I have turned the lights on) but the shops are still full of gorgeous, over-ripe fruit and vegetables. Right now, the huge 5kg boxes of tomatoes in my local Turkish shop cost about £2 and, though I know I have to resist too much bulk-buying, since I just don’t have the time and space to use/store stuff, I find it difficult not to buy one of these every year. I make chilli jam first and then scout around for another recipe, before they start to sag.
This year, it was this fantastically simple one from The Complete Nose to Tail, a brilliantly inventive (yet not complicated) and beautiful collection of recipes written by St John’s Fergus Henderson and the now-Bread Ahead Justin Piers Gellatly. It’s a book I’ve often looked at, frequently filled with Post-it notes but rarely cooked from. Then, last week, I got it off the shelf to show my American friend Anne, who wanted a recommendation for a British cookbook, and it’s not gone back yet…
The original recipe uses crottins, which are wonderful but not easy to get hold of, so to make it more accessible, I tried it with a rind-on soft goat’s cheese (Soignon worked, and anything similar would too) and it was truly delicious. It also includes mint leaves in the dressing; personally, I wasn’t sure they added much so I have left them out. I’d be tempted to try other herbs in it though: basil or thyme for example. This is an easy, one-pot dinner for a wet Monday, when you haven’t much in the fridge, lovely cold the next day for lunch, and would make a great side dish too.
Makes enough for 2 to 3
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic cloves, 10
sea salt and black pepper
good bread, about 4-6 slices
good vine tomatoes, about 9 or 10
rind-on goat’s cheese, about 270g, either 3 individual ones or a log sliced into 3 thick pieces (or 3 crottins, if you can get them)
1. Peel the garlic and preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-assisted/gas 6.
2. Put the tomatoes and garlic in an ovenproof dish, season with salt and pepper and dress with plenty of olive oil, then bake for about 25 minutes until the tomatoes are nice and soft. A little bit of charring here and there won’t hurt; if anything I find it adds to the flavours.
3. Whilst the tomatoes are cooking, juice the ½ lemon, toast the bread (either in a normal toaster or, if you like, drizzle it with oil and bake it in the oven at the same time) until crispy and golden.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and check that the garlic is soft and cooked. If not, remove the tomatoes from the dish and put to one side, then bake the garlic a little longer until it’s ready.
5. Once the garlic is done, put the tomatoes back in the dish, add the goat’s cheese and put the lot back in the oven until the goat’s cheese is soft but not liquid.
6. Finally, dress the tomatoes, garlic and cheese with the lemon juice and a little more olive oil then serve with the toast.