A few weeks ago - can it really have been a few weeks ago? where does the time go - Kathryn came to stay, a visit that was part just catching up but also, because we so rarely get time to see one another in the flesh, part work. An Honest Kitchen may be quiet from time to time in a public sense, but privately, there is always a lot going on, in and among other bits of work of course, but it's a happy constant in our lives. Pens and diaries poised, we planned a full year and a half ahead at the red table, then we cooked - Kathryn sliced, then roasted thick rounds of eggplant from the garden (and skillfully worked the knife around the bug-nibbles) while I worked on a dill, miso and leek (again, from the garden) pesto for squidging into them.
Huge fun, let me tell you.
So it’s not been all about the garden around here, not a chance, even though this space may be light-on for recipes of late. Cooking is and shall always be the reason for the work, for the energy, for the precious time invested. That there’s been so much talk of garden is simply because we have never stayed put anywhere long enough to establish anything lasting; here I am able to put down roots, to build something permanent, something in which to grow ourselves – indeed, MY-self - a more fulfilling life. It's a complete change of pace for us. Physically exhausting, yes, but deeply - deeply - rewarding.
By some sort of strange coincidence nearly all of the tomatoes I picked out from the catalogue were small, not-quite cherry but near enough to be called thus, the exception being the heart-shaped cherry tomatoes which were, obviously, cherry-sized (not quite as romantic as they seemed in the photograph) and the Tigerella, a small tomato with a taste delicious to humans and, unfortunately when the rains came in February, the slugs. All were prolific, but I found myself longing, from time to time, for a thick, ripe slice of something heartier, from one of dad's plants, more classically Italian, to sprinkle with a good crunch of salt and then eat, with knife and fork, outside in the sun. They are slowly ripening now, but they would have been so much better planted 2 months earlier. No harm in trying, I say. No harm at all.
cherry tomato gratin
Offered because it is simple enough to adapt to what you have (or not, accordingly) and was utterly delicious. Nothing beats cooking (and eating) tomatoes while they are in season. This gratin by Georgeanne Brennan came along late in the piece, a recipe copied haphazardly out of a book of mum’s over Christmas, but it was perfectly placed in the latter part of the season. I was beginning to tire of tomatoes, one of the odd joys, I should think, of growing over 35 kilos (that's correct!) of one’s own.
Arrange cherry tomatoes in a single(ish) layer in an olive-oiled gratin dish.
Chop a few cloves of garlic, a good handful of basil and tear up a few small slices of bread. I used a loaf loaded with seeds the first time, and it was particularly noteworthy. Blitz in a food processor with salt and pepper. Scatter half of the crumbs over the tomatoes.
Whisk a cup of fresh ricotta OR ½ cup of crumbled feta and enough milk or cream to make it all loose, with 2 eggs and another handful of basil, sliced as finely as you can be bothered – this should all be done rather quickly; a meal for the end of a busy day.
Pour mixture over dish. Scatter with the rest of the crumbs and drizzle generously with olive oil, then in to a 200C oven for 20-30 minutes. Good hot or at room temperature and really quite good, I must say, eaten out of the tin with a spoon at breakfast the following day.