Archive for the ‘Tomatoes’ Category

Preserving tomatillos & tomatoes

This year I’ve grown tomatillos in the tunnel and have sent some up to Cafe Azteca in Dublin. Hugo from Cafe Azteca visited us here with his family last January and gave a great Mexican Cookery Class.  He then sent on tomatillo and jalepeno seeds.  We had grown tomatillos before but really hadn’t much idea what to do with them.  I tried out a few recipes this weekend and can report good results.  Good news for the future of tomatillos here because the head gardener wasn’t too impressed with all the space they took up!

tomatillo june 2011

A tomatillo is sort of a green tomato, except it has a more interesting growth process and quite a different flavour. The plants flower and then drop down a hollow, green ‘lantern’, into which the fruit then grows.  The taste is sour/sweet.

I first tried a couple of cooked salsa recipes.  This one turned out like a ketchup so I’m calling it:

Tomatillo Ketchup – Mexican-style

makes 8 jars

3kg tomatillos, roughly chopped

3 white onions, roughly chopped

8 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped

6 fresh jalapenos, chopped

2 dried chillis – e.g. guajillo – lightly toasted over gas flame to soften & roughly chopped

Place all these ingredients in a large saucepan.  Heat and bring to the boil – reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the onion is soft.  Now add:

1 bunch fresh coriander

225g sugar

Heat to dissolve the sugar fully.  Blitz with a hand blender to a fairly smooth puree. Bring back to the boil and store in sterilised jars or bottles.  Place sterilised lids on immediately.  Store in a cool, dark press.

It’s lovely and would be a great, flavoursome ketchup replacer, but I wasn’t really going for a ketchup.  I flaked and added sugar towards the end of cooking because I thought it was going to be too sour.  Then it turned into ketchup.  So I started again and came up with a yummy, hotter salsa.

Tomatillo Ancho Salsa

This recipe is exactly as above but instead of 2 dried chillis add 8 dried ancho chillis (lightly roasted over gas flame and roughly chopped).  DO NOT ADD SUGAR. Preserve in the same way.  This salsa would be lovely drizzled over quesedillas, tacos, burritos….and also good for dipping good quality sausages into as I found out yesterday morning.

Hugo had explained that I could use tomatillos in place of tomatoes for ‘pico de gallo’ – the everyday fresh tomato salsa.  I had a look through Thomasina Miers ‘Mexican Food made Simple’ and she has a great recipe for a roast chilli tomatillo salsa.  The only changes I made was to leave out the lime juice ( I think the tomatillos lend plenty of sour on their own) and stick to jalapenos (which I have in the tunnel) instead of serranos.  This was the tomatillo triumph of the day!

Classic Roast Salsa Verde

500g tomatillos

2 cloves garlic

1 large jalapeno chilli

1 large tbsp chopped coriander

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1 pinch sea salt

First you roast the tomatillo, jalapeno and unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry frying pan. You do this until the tomatillos are blistering and become soft (10-15 minutes).  Take the jalapenos and garlic out of the pan earlier (after 5-10 minutes).  Once they are done, roughly chop the tomatillos, take the stalk off the jalapeno and peel the garlic cloves.  Add these ingredients to a blender and hit blitz a few times to give you a rough puree.  Pour into a bowl and stir in the finely chopped onion, coriander and salt.  Taste – is it good?  Serve with tortilla chips.  Delish!

That is the salsa at the front of the picture, with classic pico de gallo next to it.

Pico de Gallo (not roasted)

3 ripe tomatoes, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large jalapeno chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 large tbsp chopped coriander

1/2 white onion, finely diced

juice of 1/2 lime

1 pinch sea salt

For pico de gallo just mix all the ingredients together and enjoy with chips.

I’m reading a book called ‘A Year in the Village of Eternity’ by Tracey Lawson.  It details the authors food year spent in Campodimele, Italy where people live particularly long, healthy lives.  There are lots of recipes included and I wanted to try preserving tomatoes as described in the book.   We don’t have tons of tomatoes but I gathered up the surplus from a few people and made 5 jars thick tomato sauce.

Preserved Tomato Sauce

6kg fresh, ripe tomatoes – halved or quartered

6 pinches sea salt

Place the tomatoes and salt in a wide saucepan and heat.  Simmer for about 1 hour until you have quite a thick tomato sauce.  Stir often to prevent sticking at the base. Meanwhile sterilise jars and lids.  Place a basil leave in each jar.  Use a funnel to transfer the hot sauce to the hot jars. Seal immediately with the lid and wrap the jars in newspaper and a blanket (a very important step apparently).  This would be the method my mother uses also but she usually freezes the resulting puree to use later in the year. It will be a bit of a treat to open summer for a pasta sauce some dark winters evening.


Mexican Cuisine Class

Last weekend Hugo from Cafe Azteca came down and delivered his brilliant introduction to Mexican cuisine.  This was the real thing as everyone found out – most guacamole is not real guacamole and so on.  Here’s the menu on my new pink chalkboard door in the new dining room (thank you Michelle for colour scheme –


So ‘pico de gallo’ is your basic salsa – tomato, onion, garlic, coriander, lime juice, salt.  The many uses for these few ingredients amount to lots of dishes. Adaptations are always good news for the busy cook.  Hugo also brought with him various dried chillis and explained them and their heat value. We made beautiful dark red, cooked salsas by just varying the dried chilli with the above ingredients for pico de gallo (minus lime juice).

Hugo making salsa

One of the best things about this class for me is making tortillas from scratch. When I look at the back of supermarket ‘tortillas’ I’m scared by the list of ingredients because Hugo’s recipe is just corn masa flour and water.  The flour is not the easiest to come by and sold by Hugo (Cafe Azteca, Lord Edward St., Dublin).  The flavour is very earthy and real compared to what we’re used to.  This corn is naturally gluten-free so good for coeliacs if you can ensure an uncontaminated variety.  With the homemade tortillas we made quesedillas and sopes.  Eaten with chicken, melted emmental (we used Kelly’s Moonshine Organic swiss-style cheese from Mullingar and it was gorgeous!) as well as a mushroom/courgette mix for the veggies and washed down with Corona.  For a non-alcoholic drink Hugo suggested a flavoured water – so I whizzed up a whole pineapple (peeled, cored & diced) with 4 tbsp sugar and diluted to drinking consistency with water.  It was delicious and very Mexican I’m told!

We were then treated to a tune on the Irish whistle by our guest chef.

A little entertainment from the chef

So looking forward to the next level for more insight into real Mexican cuisine.

On a health note this type of food is seriously healthy – the salsas are full of fresh veg and require no oil and still burst with flavour.  Avacados contain monounsaturated fats – one of the healthiest around and brilliant for your heart.  This brings me to my next class on Saturday 5th Feb which is ‘Love Your Heart Cooking’ where I promise to hand over fabulous recipes that are good for you too.


Oven Dried Tomatoes

My mother has been making these beauties in the very low temperature of the oven of the range (aga) overnight.  I thought I could try the same in my electric oven, but was a little worried the temperature would be too high.  I sliced the tomatoes (cherry and regular sizes) in half horizontally and left them on a baking tray facing up with just a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.  In they went and off I went to bed.  The temperature was under 100 C.  I can say there was no wastage of tomatoes – they’re yum!  In fact, some of the larger ones were only half dehydrated and could do with longer if you’re not planning to use them soon.

I place them in a jar with a couple of cloves of garlic and covered them completely with a good olive oil.  I didn’t feel bad about using all my good olive oil because the flavour of the oil after marinating with the tomatoes and garlic is fabulicious and can be used in loads of ways – dipping, cooking, dressings etc.  There’s double the pleasure out of this recipe.  Try it with the last of the tomatoes!

A tasty jar!


There are a number of reasons I love when the tomatoes start appearing red (or yellow).  Mainly it’s because I rarely eat a fresh tomato the rest of year and have been relying on tinned and passata/purees etc.  The wait for a home grown tomato is worth it – a tomato sandwich is all that’s needed for lunch at this time of year such is the flavour.   I’m also slicing up a variety and eating with some shaved cucumber, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil +/- rocket.  In a little while I’ll have so many tomatoes I’ll be able to make roast fresh tomato soup – what a luxury!

Cherry Tomatoes

Bursting Tomato - what's this variety?

Ripening Yellow Tomato

Ailsa Craig