I was very excited to see the return in the local farm shop of one of my favourite summer foods – the tomato! Especially as they were big, ripe and there was choice of varieties. From the classic round vine (Rose de Berne), to ancient (Crimée) and even orange ones. However the first of the seasons tomatoes tend to be rather hard and not as flavoursome as later on in the summer so I prefer to cook with them. It won’t be long before lunch will consist of one massive, juicy tomato, fresh basil, a glug of quality local olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic and some rock salt and pepper. Chris was amazed when we first moved here when our elderly neighbour explained that he had eaten just one tomato for lunch. He felt sorry for him, until he saw the size of the tomatoes!! A far cry from the tasteless, rubber bullets sold in UK supermarkets all year round!
Anyhow last night it was a toss up between tomate provençal or tomato curry, interestingly Louis chose the latter. This is a really easy dish to make, but it does work better if you have at least two different colours of tomato. I served with a simple pilau rice made with local Carmague wild rice flavoured with cardamom and turmeric, and naan bread as there was a lot of juice!
This is my version of Meera Sodha’s tomato curry. I have adapted it and made it quicker and easier, she does some rather longwinded cooking in several pans which I really don’t see the need for just use one very wide pan!
1.2kg of tomatoes, they need to be ripe so do this in the summer and try to get a mix of colours and varieties
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
1.5 tsp fennel seeds
10 curry leaves
1 tsp (approx) sea salt
1.5 large onion sliced into half moons
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 fresh green chilies (due to lockdown I wasn’t able to get these so I substituted with 1 small dried red chili which I added during the cooking and then Chris and I add more dried chilies to our plates so that the dish wasn’t too spicy for Louis)
Get a heavy bottomed, wide sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Toast the four seeds until browned. You need to watch these like a hawk as they turn from toasted to burnt in a blink of an eye!
Grind the toasted seeds in a pestle and mortar into a fine powder.
Heat the coconut oil in the same pan and when melted add the onion, the spices, curry leaves and the salt, stirring to coat the onions. Cook on a medium heat until the onions begin to soften and brown but watch that they do not burn, roughly 10 minutes.
Add the chilies and garlic, and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Then add the tamarind and coconut milk and stir thoroughly to combine.
Whilst the onions are cooking you can be prepping the tomatoes; wash and remove the hard green stem, then chop into eighths if they are big or in half if the baby versions.
Artistically arrange the tomatoes on top of the onion and coconut mixture, gently poking them into the sauce. Cook for a good half hour on a medium low heat, and here is the tricky part (!) without stirring! You want the tomatoes to retain their shape, if you stir they will turn into a mush!
It is done when the coconut milk has lost a lot of its liquid and you can see oil forming at the edges of the pan. Check for seasoning and spice.
Serve with rice or bread, or be greedy like us and have both! To be honest I found that there was a lot of liquid in these early season tomatoes which is why I ended up making naan bread as well as the rice! This is a link to a really easy recipe, I have tried many recipes for naan and find them to be hit and miss, this one however seems to work each time. I did it last minute so rushed the proofing time but as it was a hot, sunny day the dough rose fine in 30 – 40 minutes. I like to make them slightly bigger than the recipe suggests so make less, 6 in total. We ate three and usually I would freeze the other three for the next time, however this time I made three normal sized and I large one which I plan on making into a pizza for lunch, I will let you know if it works!
This is a juicy, flavoursome curry but not super spicy, which is why it is good for kids. It works very well with wine and I recommend a bottle of Château Canet Rosé – a blend of Syrah and Grenache with ripe berry fruit that compliments the richness of the tomatoes and coconut milk. It has enough structure to stand up to the complexity of the spices.