We have had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. I usually sow lots of tomato seeds which readily grow into numerous tomato plants. However, sometime in August blight usually strikes and that is the end of that. A good excuse to make green tomato chutney but a bit of a shame in terms of getting lovely ripe red ones. When you realise that blight flourishes when the temperature doesn't drop below 10°C and the humidity is high, it is hardly surprising it usually arrives in August, along with the thunderstorms. However, this year, August was cool and September was the driest on record and so blight has had pretty much no impact on my tomato harvest. So, all the tomato plants have cropped nicely... abundantly actually!
I have made several batches of various tomato chutneys so far and have also shoved some tomatoes in the freezer and generated 24 pints of puree! Now I have harvested all the tomatoes, ahead of any frosts likely to arrive in October. I have strung the trusses up in the greenhouse to continue to ripen. , However, I'm in no hurry for more ripe tomatoes right now as my freezers are groaning under the weight of the tomatoes already in them.
So, when my new food dehydrator was delivered this week I wondered if dried tomatoes would be a nice thing to create. Would make a change from chutney or puree, I thought. I sliced one large tomato thinly, arranged the slices on a rack of the dehydrator and seasoned them with "pizza and pasta seasoning" then set the dehydrator off for hours for the magic to work.
Wow! What a taste sensation - bursts of flavour in the mouth, several of them, in turn, and all intense.
So, having created these wonders of flavour, what could I do with them?
The next morning I set off a batch of focaccia dough in the bread machine, chopped up the dried tomatoes with some scissors and threw that in whilst it was kneading. A couple of hours later we were tucking in to some amazingly tasty, freshly baked bread, which, honestly, you could not have bought in a shop or gourmet restaurant.
With new found enthusiasm, I sliced up 10 of the largest ripe tomatoes from the greenhouse and restacked the dehydrator. Mmm... looking forward to lots of yummy bread now!
Dried Tomato Focaccia (makes 8 individual ones)
240ml (8 fl oz) water
2 tbsp olive oil
450g (1lb) strong white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
4 tbsp (approx. 1/2 oz) dried tomatoes, chopped (sundried tomatoes could be used)
Coarse sea salt
Put the water and oil into the bread machine pan then add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and set the machine to dough. After 10 minutes of kneading, add the dried tomato pieces to the machine. Once the dough is ready, take out the dough and knock it back and divide it equally into 8 pieces. Roll into a ball then flatten each piece and place on a greased baking tray. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave for half an hour. Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6. Poke the surface of each piece of bread with the end of a wooden spoon to indent all over. Drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and serve hot or cold.
We ate these hot the first day but had some left over so the next day I placed them under the grill with some grated cheese on and had them as a very tasty cheese on toast.