Heirloom Tomato, Onion and Herb Salad



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.

Serves 4-6


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!