Make your own ketchup this summer

Tomatoes can be traced back to the early Aztec period, but they weren’t eaten by Europeans until the 19th century. Although they arrived in Britain in the 16th century, they were thought to be poisonous.

Melanie says: ‘As summer approaches, the vines are full of delicious, misshapen tomatoes ripened by the spring sun shining onto the glass-house. They’re so full of flavour, I can’t resist eating them straight off the vine or, if they make it as far as the kitchen, sliced and served with a simple vinaigrette’

Pan-fried halibut with ratatouille

Ingredients

Serves 6
Ingredients
500g tomatoes
30g sugar
20ml olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 medium-sized courgettes
1 medium-sized aubergine
1 red pepper
500g tomatoes
200ml white wine
25g pesto
A generous handful of fresh
herbs such as thyme
or basil
Chicken stock if needed
4 halibut fillets
4tbspn caper berries
(or capers)
1 lemon

Method

Preheat your oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Cut the tomatoes into equal-sized pieces and arrange them on a baking tray. Scatter the sugar over them and slow roast for 45 minutes. This brings out the flavour of the tomatoes, ensuring the intensity of the ratatouille.

Chop all the vegetables into even-sized chunks (they need to be reasonably large pieces). Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan and fry the chopped onion gently until it’s translucent (not browned).

Add the red pepper and fry briefly before adding the courgettes, aubergine and crushed garlic. Continue to fry for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the roasted tomatoes, the glass of white wine (I use white rather than red so that the dish retains its bright colours), the pesto and the herbs.

Simmer until cooked through. If you’ve simmered it for too long or on too high a temperature, you may need to add a glass of water (or chicken stock). Ratatouille keeps well in an airtight container for a couple of days, making it a good dish to prepare in advance.

In a large frying pan, heat a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter.

Cook the halibut fillets on one side until the fish appears opaque halfway up, then turn and fry until they’re cooked through. Transfer the fish onto warmed plates. Add a further knob of butter to the frying pan, squeeze the juice from the lemon into it and add the caper berries. Heat for a minute and then spoon the mixture over the fish. Serve with the ratatouille and new potatoes.

More ways with tomatoes

Italian burgers with homemade ketchup

Mix 500g minced beef with a beaten egg, seasoning, herbs and three fried spring onions. Shape into burgers and fry.

Make up hamburgers using focaccia spread with pesto, a slice of tomato, mozzarella, lettuce, a burger and homemade ketchup (see below).

Homemade ketchup

Simmer the following in a large pan for about three hours, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn on the bottom: 2.5kg ripe tomatoes, 1 onion, 6 cloves garlic, 75g salt, 600g sugar, 400ml red-wine vinegar and 1tspn chilli flakes. Process in a blender and then sieve. Store in sterilised bottles.

Cherry-tomato canapés

Cut the tops off cherry tomatoes and scoop out the flesh. In a bowl, mix together very finely diced anchovies, olives, mozzarella, basil and a touch of chilli and refill the tomatoes, replacing their tops to serve.

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