August was the month that just kept on giving, plenty of glorious sunshine, which in turn has produced a bumper crop of apples, beans, courgettes and tomatoes. We’ve been carting bucketfuls of fruit and vegetables to the shop and the home preserving mission has been in full swing.
We began ‘canning’ our tomatoes last year. Previously I had put them into the freezer but when we used the ‘canned’ tomatoes during last winter we enthused over the summery flavour every time that we opened a jar so it’s an easy decision to continue to preserve in this fashion.
Canning is an old-fashioned way of preserving, which doesn’t rely on electricity to maintain its dormant state. We use large jam jars (rather than cans) with secure lids; sterilise them and then pop a little salt into each jar. The tomatoes are quickly blanched, skins slipped off, then packed into the jam jars, which are then immersed in water and cooked for forty minutes. It’s a bit of a palaver but the results are well worth the effort. The pantry is filling with rows of gorgeous glowing red jars.
Our lentil, quinoa and oat experiments all thrived this summer, they loved the sunshine, although with only two lentils in each lentil pod and enough oats to make a bowl of porridge we would need to grow an enormous amount to become self-sufficient. The quinoa isn’t quite ready to harvest yet and then we will have to dry it and clean it, so we’ll have to wait to see what happens there. Drying can be a problem in the Irish climate!
September is the last month that we’ll be in our shop in Clonakilty. It’s going to be a big change for us and we will miss the buzz and chatting with everyone but we’re excited to move on.
The positive side of the shop closing is that the cooking classes will be back. We’re going to have a quick gad about the Mediterranean in October before returning for the winter schedule. I haven’t had time or opportunity since before Covid to give classes so this will be a welcome change. If you are interested please check our advert and let me know.
This month’s recipe is for a lush and delicious tomato and rosemary risotto. It’s simple to make – you just need good tomatoes so check out the farmers markets for the homegrown varieties; as always they’re going to have a superior flavour. If you can’t get your hands on ripe tomatoes you can substitute passata but use the best quality for a good result.
We ate our risotto with a few borlotti beans and a drizzle of our best balsamic vinegar on top. It’s also very good served with a handful of fresh rocket
• 700g ripe tomatoes
• 1 large onion
• 75g butter – diced
• 75mls olive oil
• 2-3 cloves garlic
• 1 small bulb fennel
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 300g arborio or carnaroli rice
• 1 glass white wine
• 900mls vegetable stock
• 100g grated Parmesan cheese
Put a large pot of water on to boil to blanch the tomatoes. Remove any stalks, then nick the top of each tomato with a sharp knife. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, count to twenty, then take lift them out with a slotted spoon and plunge them into cold water. Leave for a minute or two then drain them and remove the skins – they will just slip off.
Dice the tomatoes small and put aside.
Make the stock. It needs to be hot. You can keep it simmering in a small pan but don’t let it reduce.
Peel and chop the onion. Heat a medium pan, add the olive oil and 25g butter; as soon as the butter melts, stir in the onions. Cook on a medium heat but don’t let them brown. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, then slice finely. Stir into the onions, season with a little salt, then continue cooking until softened. Peel and chop the garlic and roughly chop the rosemary – discard the stalks, stir into the onion mix, then cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the rice. Cook the rice for a minute or two, stirring so that it is coated with the mix, then add half of the chopped tomatoes and the glass of white wine. When the wine has reduced, it’s time to begin adding the stock ladle by ladle, enough to keep the mix a little loose but don’t allow it to dry out. The risotto should be gently bubbling, so adjust the heat accordingly and stir every minute or two. The risotto will take about twenty minutes to cook, add the remaining tomatoes halfway. Taste the risotto, then season with salt until you are happy with the flavour. When the rice is cooked – it should have very slight bite. Take the pan off the heat. It needs to be a little loose so add a little more stock, or water if you’ve run out to achieve this. Beat in the butter followed by the Parmesan cheese until well mixed and creamy.
Ladle into warm bowls and serve as it is or with a few borlotti beans or some rocket on top.
It’s a real taste of summer.
Enjoy the last of the summer’s harvest, we’ll be eating cabbages soon!
Lettercollum Kitchen Project,
22, Connolly Street, Clonakilty