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.