In any normal year, come August and September, Mr Mac and I usually take on an orange glow due to the amount of tomatoes we eat. Our staple diet is usually this simple pasta dish which originally came about as we had to find ways to use up all the tomatoes.
This year it was 21 September before we ate it for the first time and I have been waiting all summer to share it with you!
It takes minutes to prepare and you can leave it in the oven for an hour and go potter in the garden.
- one big bowl of tomatoes
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
- Fill a bowl with ripe tomatoes.
- Wash and slice in half (or quarters if they are large).
- Place in a roasting tray and add a generous helping of salt, freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a glug of balsamic vinegar.
- Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C until the mixture has reduced and the tomatoes have started to caramelise. This usually takes about an hour. Check after 30 minutes and give it a stir. It will look very watery but, trust me, it will reduce down to a gorgeous sauce.
- Boil and drain the spaghetti and stir in the tomato sauce.
We have tried adding garlic but I think this makes it bitter. Chorizo works well cut into small cubes and also using chilli oil instead of olive oil adds a nice bit of heat. However, I believe the tomatoes are always the star of the meal and this is definitely a case of less is more.
I have had a bumper year for peas. I decided to stick to petit pois and went for a variety called Calibra. I was promised disease resistant high yields and I was not disappointed.
I experimented by starting early and growing a crop in a large pot inside the greenhouse. I planted the seeds on 19 February and we started eating the first peas on 23 June.
By comparison I planted seeds outside on 27 April and have been eating them from early August. Doing it this way has meant a continuous supply of little green gems right through summer.
I would have had even more but I planted some mange tout beside the peas and got carried away when the first pods appeared. After forcing Mr Mac to eat very stringy “mange tout”, I realised one day while weeding that we had been eating the pea pods NOT the mange tout…..oops! One day I will practice what I preach and label things!
Over the two batches I also managed to freeze some. When shelling them, I was reminded of the old Birds Eye frozen pea advert from my childhood, with the slogan “one hour to frozen”. Apparently this slogan was subtly dropped as the real time had crept up to 2 and a half hours!
I managed from bottom of the garden to freezer bag in less than 12 minutes – beat that Captain Birdseye!
This summer’s soggy weather obviously suited the soft fruit because we have had bumper yields. Over the last few weeks Mr Mac collected and froze almost 15lbs of raspberries.
After our third batch of making plain old raspberry jam I decided we should try something different. I remembered tasting raspberry and amaretto jam somewhere…I think it was at a craft fair or farmers market…and so we decided to use the last of the raspberries to experiment. The result is delicious.
Ingredients (makes approx 4lbs jam)
- 1.3kg rasberries
- 1kg sugar
- 60ml amaretto
- 1 tsp almond essence
- Put the oven on to a medium heat and sterilise the jars and warm the sugar.
- Put the raspberries in the pan and warm through until they start to melt (if frozen) and the juice comes out.
- Pour in the sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Turn the heat up until you have a rolling boil and leave like this for 10 minutes being careful not to let it boil over the top of the pot (it takes weeks to clean the hob!).
- Pour some of the mixture onto a cold plate and leave to cool. If the mixture starts to “crinkle” when pushed it has reached setting point. If not boil again for 5 minutes and repeat the set test.
- Add a knob of butter to clarify and remove any scum from the top of the jam.
- Add the amaretto and almond essence, mix through and pour into hot jars.
- Seal the lids tightly and leave to cool before labelling.
We planted two morello cherry trees last year and had hoped to make cherry jam and cherry pies.
After a promising start we had loads of blossom.
But the late frost got most of the blossom and while we did have some fruit…
…after the birds got their share, this is the sum total of our cherry harvest…
Never mind, there’s always next year!