Tomatoes help you squeeze out summer for a little longer

Simplicity is the key to bring out this fruit’s lucious flavour

�It always seems such a pity that there are so few people around to enjoy the abundance of locally grown fruit and vegetables in late summer.

This year, for the first time ever, I have bought English apricots and melons as well as mirabelles. The sweetcorn is fantastic and aubergines, peppers and tomatoes seem to thrive as well as in Provence.

There must have been a dozen varieties of tomato at Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market at the end of August. With luck, we will have them for a couple of weeks more, so let us enjoy a surfeit of tomatoes until the end of their season.

Basil and mint, but not together, are my favourite tomato salad herbs. But if you grow it yourself (almost impossible to find commercially), hyssop adds an unusual bitter counterpoint as do a few lavender flowers.

Extra virgin olive oil

The only other seasoning tomatoes need is coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and whatever is my current favourite extra virgin olive oil.

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Those, generally, are the only condiments I use in any salad, supplemented by a good bottle of vinegar. This might be an old balsamico or aged sherry vinegar but it might well be some home-made lavender or raspberry vinegar.

A warm tomato and aubergine salad is so simple to make that it hardly needs a recipe.

For two people, slice a moderately-sized aubergine, brush the slices with olive oil and grill or fry them.

Meanwhile, slice and season two or three tomatoes and, when the aubergine is soft, alternate slices of it with the sliced tomato.

It is important to cook the aubergine thoroughly. There is no merit in “al dente” aubergine which is like biting into thick felt.

The heat of the aubergine will warm the tomatoes and release even more flavour. Dress with sherry vinegar and a little more olive oil and add basil or mint.

The same herbs will go well with a roast tomato and goats’ cheese salad which you make by quartering some tomatoes.

Scoop the seeds and “jelly” into a sieve, set over a bowl. Roast or grill the tomato pieces and remove the skin once it is loose enough to do so. With a pastry cutter, cut two rounds from two slices of bread and toast it under the grill. When you are toasting the second side, put a slice or round of goat’s cheese on top and let it heat through.

Heap salad leaves on two plates, put the tomato pieces around them and place the goat’s cheese on toast on top. Rub the tomato residue through a sieve and mix in extra virgin olive oil and a little seasoning. Pour over and around the salad and serve.

This is particularly good with a mixture of watercress, rocket and lambs lettuce.

For a roasted fennel, red pepper and tomato salad, quarter a fennel bulb or cut into eight wedges, depending on size and shape, and brush with oil.

Quarter a red pepper and discard the seeds. Prepare a couple of tomatoes as in the previous recipe. Grill or roast the vegetables and skin the peppers and tomatoes when cool enough to do so.

Make a dressing with the tomato liquid and extra virgin olive oil, together with the usual seasoning. Bread and tomato salad

(Serves 6-8)

400 g white or wholemeal bread, in one piece

4 tablespoons sherry vinegar

4 tablespoons iced water

750 g firm, sweet, ripe tomatoes, peeled, quartered, and deseeded

2 to 3 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

A few spring onions, trimmed and sliced - optional

Flat leaf parsley, mint or basil leaves, shredded, to garnish

Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces, and spread on a baking sheet. Place in the oven at 150 C/300 F, gas mark 2 for a few minutes, or until slightly crisped. Put the bread in a bowl with the vinegar, water, tomatoes and garlic. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the oil, and leave to stand for 30 to 40 minutes to let the flavours develop. Stir in the onions and herbs before serving.