Harvest Will Preserve Us

Lovely to be heading towards a "New Year" again and taking advantage of the end of summer harvest. Tomatoes are at their peak now, sweet, plentiful and cheap. Perfect if you have a glut of them in the garden or like me, have a fab market where I can get 5kg of tomatoes for a fiver. Same goes for peppers, cucumbers and courgettes. Store the tomatoes for the winter using Marcella Hazan's , classic tomato recipe and keep them in 250ml/ 1 cup portions in the freezer. One of my go to mid-week dishes is this tomato curry.

Quick Tomato Curry
Serves 3 - 4 
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 heaped tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
1 heaped tablespoon of curry paste, I use a madras one
2 cups of tomato sauce, no need to defrost
Oil of your choice
Salt, pepper, sugar

In a large frying pan, on a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the chopped onions.
Cook for 3 or 4 minutes before adding the ginger, turmeric, garlic and curry paste, give a good stir and reduce the heat and cook for another few minutes then add the tomatoes. As soon as the tomatoes start to defrost render some liquid, increase the temperature to completely cook through the curry. Taste and adjust season to your liking, add a little sugar if too sharp.
This is a great accompaniment to grilled lamb chops or over steamed cauliflower for those Paleo or low carb people. I love it poured over a bowl of fresh spinach with a dollop of plain yoghurt and homemade naan bread.

And tackle those cucumber mountains with a lovely recipe, slightly adapted, from Jane Grigson´s English Food .

Cucumber Ragoƻt
Serves 4
2 cucumbers, sliced into rounds, unpeeled
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
125 mls of chicken stock
50 mls of white wine
2 rounded teaspoons of plain flour
Butter, softened to room temp.
Salt, pepper, mace ( or nutmeg )

In a large saucepan, brown the cucumbers in a teaspoon of butter, pour off excess liquid, add another teaspoon of butter and the onion and cook on a medium heat for 3 minutes or until the onions are taking on a little colour. Add the stock, wine, a pinch of salt, pepper and mace or nutmeg. Cover the pan and simmer the vegetables until cooked, about 10 minutes should do it. Mix 2 teaspoons of softened butter with the flour, add this mixture bit by bit into the vegetables, stirring gently so that the juices become a thick sauce. Adjust seasoning and serve. Good with roast chicken or a piece of pan fried fish.
You can substitute courgettes with the cucumber. This freezes well and can also be topped with seasoned bread crumbs and browned under a grill for another variation. 

As much as I love to pickle stuff, saving the best of the harvest doesn´t necessarily mean setting up a canning factory in the kitchen, use your fridge and freezer for low fuss preserving.

Top Tips For the Harvest

1. Wash fruit and veg (not soft fruits) in a sink filled with cold water with a handful of salt dissolved in it before using. Should remove a good amount of dirt, wax and some pesticides.

2. Picked a peck of peppers? Well skip the pickling, roast them. Wash, cut them in half, remove the core and seeds. Place in a shallow roasting pan, cut side up, liberally add olive or local rapeseed oil, some rosemary and or some garlic skin on and roast at 180 C until soft and unctuous. Allow peppers to cool, remove herbs, place in a clean jar or plastic container with a well fitting lid. Cover the peppers with the roasting juices, top up with more oil to cover and store in fridge, 1 to 2 months.

3. There are still some beautiful stone fruits around, peaches, plums and apricots.
De-seed and freeze them as is. When you have time, defrost to make a sauce or a puree to serve with warm, with ice-cream. Or try making a fruit liqueur .

4. Get together with friends and neighbours to buy a few cases of fruit and vegetables. That way you all a get bargain and a variety of produce to play with.

5. Make super quick Scandi pickled cucumber by warming 2 cups of white wine vinegar, 200 grams of white sugar, a bunch of fresh dill or 2 tablespoons of dried, a couple of cloves, together until sugar is dissolved, pour over thinly sliced cucumber while hot. Chill in a clean, sealed container in the fridge. Serve with everything. They´re delicious.

Harvest festivals are happening now and The Trussell Trust  has launched it´s annual Combined Harvest Appeal. The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 food banks, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK, where thirteen million people live below the poverty line. Click the link and see what you can do to help.

Love Food X