Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Little red footballs: the last of the summer tomatoes.

It was the first day of the second month of autumn and it reached 35 degrees. I hadn't counted, but the tomatoes must have got into the thousands; which makes growing them, especially cherry ones (slightly oval, like miniature Sherrins), worthwhile despite having to fiddle about with stakes, pinch out lower branches, and tie up vines with old stockings etc. It's not that much work if you have the time. My tomato growing rules: plenty of compost and good soil but no tomato dust and no pesticides. Plant basil and other herbs around them and they’ll keep most bugs away. Most of the tomatoes came straight off the vine and onto the table or into the pot, but I ripened some on the front window sill.

Several of this year’s vines were taller than me and, late in summer, were still sending out tendrils in all directions, like a besieged Dustin Fletcher on a bad day.

And now I was down to the last few dozen red orbs. I thought I’d send them out with a bang: one of summer’s great dishes.

Pappardelle with vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, fresh ricotta and basil.

Wide strips of pasta such as pappardelle or tagliatelle are best with this dish, although you could use any pasta at a pinch.

Cook pasta to your liking. Al dente is regarded as superior because it still has a 'bite'; however some prefer it cooked more fully. A better reason is that pasta beyond the al dente stage is replete with fluid, and will therefore 'slip' when combined in its final dish; whereas al dente pasta remains pervious and will therefore adhere better, or give better grip, to its fellow ingredients. That’s the real reason beyond the usual 'to the tooth' literal translation of the phrase.

Carefully slice ricotta into cubes. It has to be silky, shimmering fresh. Some of the Sydney Road supermarkets and delicatessens stock new supplies every day, otherwise don't bother.

Slice cherry tomatoes in two. Scatter the ricotta and tomatoes over the pasta, along with ripped basil leaves. To finish the dish, shower cracked black pepper over it. The bland, slightly sweet ricotta marries with the fragrant acidity of the tomatoes, while the cracked pepper sets off fireworks in the background. The slinky pasta strips are the sheets on the marital bed. Toast the result with a glass of Hunter Valley Semillon, something with a bit of body.

Dessert, as if needed, featured the rest of the ricotta dressed in a different costume; albeit equally fetching. Scatter toasted and shaved almonds and very ripe figs sliced carpaccio-thin over the ricotta with a drizzle of honey. Add six or so droplets of sweetened espresso and a coffee bean on each serve just to be pretentious. Serve with a shot of ouzo. Then go to bed.


Another summer gone. I watched the children run, and swim, and eat ice cream, and grow tanned, and wake to hot northerlies, and fall asleep, exhausted, to the sound of crickets and the hissing of summer lawns. Oddly enough, the song that for me best recalls summer is from a country on the other side of the world. But we were there not too many generations ago.

Take me back, take me way, way, way back
On Hyndford Street
Where you could feel the silence at half past eleven
On long summer nights
As the wireless played Radio Luxembourg
And the voices whispered across Beechie River
In the quietness as we sank into restful slumber in the silence
And carried on dreaming, in God

And walks up Cherry Valley from North Road Bridge, railway line
On sunny summer afternoons
Picking apples from the side of the tracks
That spilled over from the gardens of the houses on Cyprus Avenue
Watching the moth catcher working the floodlights in the evenings
And meeting down by the pylons
Playing round Mrs. Kelly's lamp
Going out to Holywood on the bus
And walking from the end of the lines to the seaside
Stopping at Fusco's for ice cream
In the days before rock 'n' roll

Hyndford Street, Abetta Parade
Orangefield, St. Donard's Church
Sunday six-bells, and in between the silence there was conversation
And laughter, and music and singing, and shivers up the back of the neck
And tuning in to Luxembourg late at night
And jazz and blues records during the day
Also Debussy on the third programme
Early mornings when contemplation was best
Going up the Castlereagh hills
And the cregagh glens in summer and coming back
To Hyndford Street, feeling wondrous and lit up inside
With a sense of everlasting life
And reading Mr. Jelly Roll and Big Bill Broonzy
And "Really The Blues" by "Mezz" Mezzrow
And "Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac
Over and over again
And voices echoing late at night over Beechie River
And it's always being now, and it's always being now
It's always now

Can you feel the silence?
On Hyndford Street where you could feel the silence
At half past eleven on long summer nights
As the wireless played Radio Luxembourg
And the voices whispered across Beechie River
And in the quietness we sank into restful slumber in silence
And carried on dreaming in God.

- Van Morrison, from 'Hymns To the Silence', 1991


Melbourne Girl said...

KH our tomato vines were massive this year too and towered above me, but didn't produce as much as yours it seems. Maybe because we kept them in pots so they could be watered while we were away. Those that we did get to eat though were delicious. There really is nothing like a home grown sherrin.

kitchen hand said...

Yes, MG, and on a hot day they even carry the warmth of the sun when picked straight off the vine.

kitchen hand said...
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