Our resident chef Mark Hix on how the tomatoes from his youth have inspired the tomatoes of his today

 
Mark Hix

One of my fondest food memories as a kid was my grandfather’s tomatoes. At a certain time of year, he grew chrysanthemums in one greenhouse and tomatoes in the other. I would often help him gardening and at night we would go to the greenhouse armed with tweezers and a torch to remove earwigs from his prize-winning flowers. We would also meticulously remove new shoots from between the main tomato stems so the fruits got maximum nutrients.

His tomatoes were a simple variety called moneymaker, nothing fancy, and I remember the smell of them when we went into the greenhouse to harvest them.

He would sell a few to his friends or exchange them for crabs and lobsters, or occasionally you’d see a hare or rabbits hanging from the porch door.

Tea time was often a simple plate of sliced tomatoes with warm buttered bread and a splash of Sarson’s vinegar. Food like this influenced how I cook today, using a few simple ingredients, and I still serve our tomato salads with Sarson’s.

If he were still alive today, I may well have encouraged him to grow other varieties, but now I’ll always remember him for his moneymakers.

Tomato and shallot salad, serves 4-6

You can use a single variety or a mixture for this but the key is that they must have a great flavour, as some of the fancy heritage varieties on sale just aren't ripe.

Ingredients and method

  • 300-400g tomatoes, cut into wedges, chunks or slices (or a mixture)
  • 2-3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs or more of Sarson’s vinegar
  • 2 tbs rapeseed or olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • rrange the tomatoes on individual or one large serving dish and scatter over the shallots then season and spoon over the oil and vinegar.

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