Home grown tomatoes and responsive cooking.


If there’s one thing my other half can grow it’s tomatoes (and runner beans) but today I am talking tomatoes.

It is not unusual to find his homegrown tomatoes in unusual places in his efforts to get them to redden. I’ll never forget the day a few years ago when I was still working in a very stressful environment and I came home to see them hanging on the washing line. It made I laugh, as we say in Wiltshire!!

This year we have a super glut of tomatoes which have done well in all kinds of dishes, from Ratatouille to pizza sauces they have served us well. But we are off on our travels soon for a while to sunnier climes and so I decided to make some chutney with some of the harvest.

Looking around my kitchen I realised there was quite a bit that needed using up otherwise I’d find them covered in a lovely coat of blue-green-sheen mould when I came home. So I decided to do a bit of foraging and threw together a chutney. I found a fab quote that kind of sums up my way of cooking, which tends to be

  1. Look at what I have got
  2. Hunt for a recipe I like the look of
  3. Adapt it
  4. Taste it
  5. Adapt it again.

“Cooking this way reverses the modern relationship between a chef and an ingredient. Rather than writing a menu and then going shopping, the chef walks through a garden or market; goes foraging, fishing or hunting; and cooks what is. This approach can deliver vibrant flavours and lively meals. Responsive cooking is not only a way to approach dinner. It is a way to approach life, grounded in what is, eyes wide open to what could be.”

-Molly O’Neill, from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook.

So, given that I had a lot of tomatoes, some chillies and some beetroot I settled on making this….

Beetroot and Tomato Chutney

Adapted from the River Cottage Preserves Book

Makes 4 jars

2 1/4 lbs tomatoes

2 tsp salt

6 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1/4 cup olive oil

2 red chillis

1 packet of beetroot

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 red onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half, and place them on a baking sheet, with the juicy bits facing up. Cover with salt, olive oil, garlic, and chopped chillies and then roast in the oven for 1 hour. Remove, and allow to cool slightly, then press the whole lot through a sieve into a bowl. It will take a while, but eventually you’ll have a beautiful, slightly spicy tomato puree in the bowl, and a mass of skins and seeds in the sieve.

When the beetroot are out of the oven, and cooled slightly, peel off the skins. They should come off really easily. Then put them through a food processor, or blender, until they’re either grated or coarsely chopped into little pieces. You don’t need to puree them

Preheat the oven to 500. Put in the cleaned jars that you will be using (Not with the lids).

In a heavy bottomed pan on the stove, bring the sugar, vinegar, onion, and mustard to a boil, for 5 minutes.

With the heat on medium, add the tomato puree and cook for 3 minutes, then add the beetroots, and cook for ten minutes. Remove from the heat, and remove the jars from the oven. Spoon the relish into the jars, scoot a spatula around the edges to remove air bubbles, and screw on the lids. Once cooled, check the seals– if they are sealed properly then they will keep in a cool place for up to 1 year.


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