The joyous occasion came to pass last week. While everyone was sunning themselves in parks, I was shoving a roast turkey in the oven and blanching as the idle meat thermometer on the side read 38C. And then we lit a fire. And after a few days of this sweaty festive ordeal, the very last thing I wanted to do was come home to a hot dinner. So I suppose it’s God’s way of mitigating his hilarious heat wave timing by making sure that all manner of gorgeous, refreshing vegetables are in season right now.
For those in London, if you only go to Borough market once a year, it should be in August. The stalls are riots of the most divine fruit and veg, piled high, soft, succulent and ripe. It’s absolutely mesmerising. On escaping from the office winter-wonderland in search of an antidote for supper, I was utterly spoiled for choice, but came to rest on the heritage tomato table in Turnips. My god. Row upon row of plump, glossy tomatoes, watermelon striped, primrose yellow, huge red Coeur de boeuf, and elongated San Marzano. Completely ignoring the price tag, I filled bags with the most unusual I could find, took them to the counter, then nearly had a heart attack. On a cautionary note everyone, when being seduced by vegetables in Borough market, always look at the price tag. My haul worked out at approximately £1 per tomato. Hmm. Needless to say I balked, went to remove them, remembered all those mince pies and meekly handed over my card, grabbing a sourdough baguette before scuttling away.
Tomatoes on toast has to be one of the simplest, but most delicious meals on the planet. But you have to have good tomatoes, and while £10 for two people might be a little excessive, when you’ve spent all hot summer day steaming Christmas puddings and making pigs in blankets, it seems worth it. We ate them with a very cold bottle of Viognier, and finished the meal off with fresh figs and a tiny goat’s cheese crottin drizzled with honey. Not a stuffing ball in sight…
Tomatoes on toast for two - hardly a recipe, but worth knowing anyway
Around 600-700g ripe mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1shallot, finely chopped
drizzle sherry or red wine vinegar
pinch caster sugar
2-6 slices (depending on size) sourdough baguette or similar crusty, chewy bread, toasted
1 garlic clove, halved
sea salt and black pepper
handful basil leaves
Mix the tomatoes with 3tbsp of the extra virgin, the shallot, the vinegar (proceed cautiously and keep tasting) and the sugar (ditto). Leave it to sit for 15 minutes so the flavours mix. Rub the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove and place on two plates. Season the tomatoes generously last minute (the salt draws the liquid out of them so do this as late as possible) and taste again. You may find you need a little more vinegar after you’ve added the salt. Toss the basil leaves through and tip on top of the bread, finishing with a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately, preferably outside.
If you like, you can add a few shavings of good Parmesan over the top, but I think it’s just as gorgeous unadorned.