When I recently returned from Mallorca – with the irrepressible desire to recreate Catalan bread and the unforgettable image of ‘Banana Hammock’ etched on my noggin – I desperately needed to find a ripe bull’s heart or beef tomato. My expedition was close to being fruitless (ha!) until I had the smart idea to gatecrash Bristol’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market, masquerading as a small-time shop owner in a high visibility, dayglo vest. (Those east London market-trader roots can be useful, you know.)
Lucky for me, the friendly chaps manning the gates ushered me passed. Unlucky for me, I had to buy a giant box of heirloom tomatoes just to get the one. But fret I did not, given that The French Garden supplied me with utterly beautiful, locally-sourced, sunshine-sweet fruit, and the banter with which Dave and Ben sold it to me irresistible – in short, flirted with over a veg box – if also, perhaps, unavoidable. It was a market after all.
So I was left with enough tomatoes to feed a family of four (The Mother-in-Law has gone on a jolly with The Psychotherapist Boyfriend), The Lodgers and dinner guests for the rest of the week, in an array of meals that included a divine puttanesca sauce, a vaguely successful fennel and tomato tart, and this gloriously easy-peasy salad below.
We’d only just harvested our tiddly super-sweet baby red onions (snapped here sunbathing on the deck) and the herbs have been shooting up all summer, so the shipment of heritage tomatoes was a perfect accompaniment to our home-grown goodies. Each ingredient highlights the next and is hugged by a deep bitter-sharp-sweet dressing of olive oil and sherry vinegar.
When I made this salad the other day, we rounded off the meal with my first attempt at making the utterly French and foolproof (or so I thought) dessert, cherry clafoutis, with summertime’s other crimson-coloured jewels. However, I shall not be posting the results here until I perfect the dish that The Husband now kindly and gladly refers to as ‘Clafomellete’. The AGA is still winning.
750g (or so) selection of heirloom tomatoes (or ripe plum, bull’s hearts or beef will do)
2 baby red onions, sliced very finely
Lots of fresh basil, parsley, dill, mint, savory, thyme and oregano, finely chopped
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar (you can also use red wine vinegar)
Sea salt and black pepper
Slice the tomatoes and arrange on a large plate along with the fine slices of onion.
Scatter over the chopped herbs and a good sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Whisk together the oil and vinegar, and dress the salad. Leave to marinate for a few minutes before serving.
Serve as a side dish or a main course, but always with bread!