Returning home from a 10-day working trip in France this weekend, the garden seems to have been ultra-bountiful in my absence. The Katy apple tree, a delicious red eating apple along the lines of Discovery, has shed most of its fruit now, always an early arrival, and friends have kindly left bags full in my fridge. The tomatoes have also ripened beautifully, despite, or perhaps, because of the plentiful rain, and I haven’t dared check out the allotment yet, but the rather large courgettes taking up residence in my fridge suggest they have been productive too! I’m hoping to spend the day down at the allotment tomorrow, so will doubtless have even more bounty to process then….
Having eaten at rather strange times in France due to my working hours, I’ve been really looking forward to simple fruit and vegetable meals again – just as well, really! For tonight’s meal, after a day getting straight with unpacking, washing, sorting out paperwork and generally relaxing, I had the urge to make something akin to Aubergine Parmigiana, but sadly my only remaining aubergine is just a couple of inches long and probably won’t come to anything this late in the season. I decided instead to create a tomato dish, inspired by the aubergine recipe, but using just tomatoes. I served it with pork and leek sausages from my local farm shop and it was everything I’d imagined: see what you think!
Baked Tomato & Gruyère Gratin – serves 2 or 4
Handful fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
200g pot creamy fromage frais (not the 0% stuff!)
About 80g Gruyère
Couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs
Halve the tomatoes and line up in neat rows in a gratin dish. I used cherry tomatoes as that’s what I had most of, but you can use standard tomatoes too – just increase the initial cooking time in that case. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, chopped basil, then drizzle with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200°C / Gas 6 for 20 – 30 minutes depending on size of tomatoes. They should be starting to soften and release their juices.
Top with spoonfuls of fromage frais, spreading out as best you can; it doesn’t matter if it’s not all covered. Then add thin shavings of Gruyère and top with the breadcrumbs (I use frozen for ease, prepared in the food processor when I have excess bread to use up).
Turn the oven down to 180°C / Gas 5 and cook for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.
Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish with meat and potatoes or 2 if just serving as a substantial side with sausages or chops.
Pudding had to be apples of some description, so I looked to Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Puddings for inspiration and adapted one of his deliciously simple apple creations:
Pan-fried apples with Calvados – serves 2
Knob of butter
2-3 tbsp vanilla sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Dash of Calvados
Peel and core the apples, slicing each apple into 8 or so segments. Sprinkle with lemon juice to stop browning as you prepare the rest.
Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the apples. Cook over a relatively gentle heat for 15 minutes or so until starting to soften. Add the vanilla sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon to taste, then cook for a further 10 minutes until the liquid looks syrupy. Add a dash of Calvados and cook for a further few minutes.
Serve warm or cold with crème fraiche or clotted cream. Heaven…
My final recipe is one I shall cook tomorrow night to make inroads into the courgette stockpile. It was suggested by a very good friend of mine after we’d shared a foodie/garden-visiting weekend together earlier this year and makes a scrumptious and substantial vegetarian feast. The first time I made it, I adapted it slightly to use up the remains of a Puy lentil and beetroot salad I had in the fridge, but you can equally well use lentils from scratch. Just cook in water for 20 minutes or so according to the instructions on the packet.
Stuffed Courgettes with Puy Lentils & Cheese – serves 2
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Handful chopped basil
½ tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
100g cooked Puy lentils
Cooked beetroot (optional)
Cheddar cheese to top
Halve courgettes lengthwise and hollow out flesh with a sharp spoon. Chop the flesh and reserve. Blanch the courgette shells in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and place in a rectangular gratin dish.
Sauté the chopped onion, garlic and chilli until soft, then add chopped courgette flesh, cumin and coriander, chopped tomatoes, basil and tomato purée. Cook down for a further 10-15 minutes, then stir in the cooked lentils and beetroot (if using). Cook for another 10 minutes or so until well blended; fill courgettes with the lentil mixture and top with grated Cheddar cheese.
Cook in a hot oven (180°C / Gas 5) for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
Serve with a green salad and enjoy!