Salad of Sugar-cured Tomatoes with Crushed Broad Beans and Oregano Crème Fraîche
Portion/Yield:Serves 4–6 as a starter or as an accompaniment
You will find in my cookbook (The British Larder, A Cookbook for All Seasons) for the month of July, a page dedicated to tomatoes. Tomatoes surrounded me as a child and my grandfather used to grow them. When we visited my grandparents, my grandmother used to have the salt and pepper, a wet dish cloth and a sharp knife at the ready for my father, because the first thing he used to do when we arrived was to visit the tomato vines and eat as many as he possibly could in one go! Deliciously ripe and picked straight from the vine, the tomatoes were still slightly warm from the baking summer sun. I toddled along beside my father and patiently stood waiting for my share to be passed over – the smell and taste of those wonderful tomatoes is something I will never forget.
In my book, I semi-dry the tomatoes to preserve them for a little longer. This is a favourite method of mine as it intensifies the flavour of the tomatoes, and this taste in turn brings back those fond memories of times gone by.
A twist on that favourite recipe from my book is that I have now added sugar to create this new recipe. I serve the sugar-cured tomatoes with crushed broad beans and oregano crème fraîche to create a really simple yet very delicious dish. It is ideal served as a starter or as a simple accompaniment to a meal (serve with roast chicken or duck, pan-fried cod, barbecued steak, etc).
I quite enjoy the family-style of dining where plates of food are placed on the table for everyone to help themselves. This grazing style of dining suits me best as plenty of different dishes can be enjoyed at the same time without looking too greedy. Well, I think that’s what get-togethers are all about, sharing and enjoying food with family and friends and having a great time creating memories for the future.
Ingredients & Method
For the sugar-cured tomatoes
- 600g ripe cherry tomatoes, stalks removed
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- a sprig of oregano, leaves only, finely chopped
- 25ml olive oil
- 1 teaspoon unrefined caster sugar
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the crushed broad beans and oregano crème fraîche
- 500g broad beans (podded weight), podded
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 180g crème fraîche
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon sumac, to serve (optional)
First, prepare the sugar-cured tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 110°C/Gas Mark 1/4 and place a large wire cooling rack on a large baking tray. Set aside.
Cut the tomatoes in half. Place them in a large mixing bowl, add the garlic, oregano, oil, sugar and salt and pepper and toss to mix, then arrange them, cut-sides-up, in a single layer on the prepared wire rack. Place the baking tray in the oven for about 2 hours or until the tomatoes look shrivelled and dry but still retain a bit of moisture/juiciness (i.e. they are semi-dry, not completely dry). The length of time that you dry the tomatoes for partly depends on the size of the tomatoes. I check them after about 2 hours, and then increase the drying time, if necessary, until they are semi-dried.
Once the tomatoes are dried sufficiently, remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely on the wire rack. Once cool, place them in an airtight container in the fridge until needed, or if you are planning to prepare the rest of the salad straight away, then leave them at room temperature until you are ready to serve. (If chilling the tomatoes, bring them to room temperature before serving to enjoy their best flavour.)
To double-pod the broad beans, blanch the podded beans in a pan of boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Pop the tender, bright green beans out of their outer grey skins by squeezing gently. Discard the outer grey skins and reserve the inner bright green beans.
Keep 4 tablespoons of the double-podded broad beans aside for serving. Place the rest in a large mixing bowl, then use the pestle part of a mortar and pestle (or use the end of a rolling pin) and lightly crush the beans, not to form a paste but simply to crush them. Add the oregano, garlic, crème fraîche, lemon zest and juice and salt and pepper. Mix to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
To serve, spoon some crushed broad beans and oregano crème fraîche on to each serving plate, then use the back of a spoon to flatten it slightly and make a well. Pile some sugar-cured tomatoes into the centre of each well, then sprinkle over the sumac, if using, and the reserved broad beans and serve.