Summertime in Currabinny is when the place really comes alive.
Holiday home residents and visitors to the sea and woods, transform a sleepy, retiring hamlet into a bustling seaside paradise.
Families with small children, young people jumping off the pier and dog walkers in the woods all become seasonal features which gives Currabinny a sense of being a real place.
It is of course a real place all year round, but in these long summer days, you forget that there are no shops, no buses, no pub or church.
You cannot buy anything here apart from a small ‘honesty’ table of strawberries, put out when remembered, where passers by are invited to put a fiver in a jar and take with them a box of plump, ripe fruit. This is about as close to enterprise as we have.
In her green corrugated art studio, behind the house, William’s mother, Breda, looks out over her own bounty of produce. A small series of raised beds, an old gooseberry bush, large barrels of herbs and a sort of hobbled together greenhouse where her most prized crop grows.
As you approach the greenhouse, the intoxicating smells of sweet ripe tomatoes greets you, a heady hit of pure, almost exotic summer.
All season long there is a large bowl of tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colours on display in the kitchen, so many in fact that often we struggle to use them all and turn to making sauces and chutneys, like the harissa recipe we have included here which benefits from hot chillies also grown in Breda’s greenhouse.
If our venturesome neighbours up the road can do it, maybe we should set up a little table as well. We imagine there would be quite the demand.
Although on second thoughts, we think, we will keep them for ourselves, we wouldn’t want them to become too popular and leave our own kitchen empty!
Once the sun has reached its midsummer heights and penetrated the flesh of the fruits as they reach maturity, the most appropriate way to eat tomatoes is by doing as little as possible.
There is so much flavour in perfectly ripe tomatoes, when eaten at the right time, that to fiddle with them too much would be a crime.
For this recipe, the tomatoes are sliced open, laid out on a platter, with a little seasoning, some torn pieces of heavy, creamy buffalo mozzarella (preferably from Macroom) and fresh basil, plucked just before serving.
The sauce verte is simple and should be used sparingly to enhance the
flavours of the tomatoes, which should remain the dominant flavour.
Preserved lemon is widely available and Rocket Man in Cork city make particularly good preserved lemons, in big jars on sale in the deli.
500g mixed heirloom tomatoes
A good handful of fresh basil
1 good quality buffalo mozzarella ball
Salt and pepper
For the sauce verte:
2 tbsp finely diced preserved lemon skin
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tbsp chopped fresh mint
Slice the tomatoes however you like them. We tend to quarter or half smaller cherry varieties and slice larger tomatoes into rounds.
Arrange sliced tomatoes on a large platter or serving bowl and season with sea salt and a little black pepper. Tear the mozzarella ball and arrange pieces in and around the tomatoes.
Tear a good handful of basil leaves and scatter over tomatoes and mozzarella.
To make the Sauce Verte:
Smash everything together with pestle and mortar, adding olive oil at the end.
Alternatively, blitz in a food processor. Using a small spoon, drizzle roughly over the salad.
Good quality store-bought puff pastry is a wonderfully useful thing.
If you have the time and the skills, making puff pastry from scratch is of course going to be better but kind of defeats the purpose of this recipe, which is a celebration of the simple.
As this tart is all about the tomatoes, they should be good and ripe, you should be able to smell their sweetness.
The base is brushed with some crushed garlic and good olive oil, tomatoes placed in a single layer on top, season well, a little lemon zest to lift everything and served with fresh basil – perfection.
400g of good store- bought puff pastry, thawed
Cream flour, for dusting
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Handful of basil
400g of mixed, ripe, heritage tomatoes, sliced into rounds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180C.
Roll out the puff pastry on parchment paper with a little flour.
You want to have a large rectangle around half the size of an average oven shelf (15x10).
With a sharp knife cut
a thin border around the pastry rectangle and prick the middle with a fork in a few places. Transfer to an oven
Combine the crushed garlic with the extra
virgin olive oil and brush onto the pastry.
Add the sliced tomatoes, season well with seasalt, black pepper, lemon zest and torn basil leaves and brush a little more oil on top.
Place in the oven for roughly 30 to 40 minutes until the rim has puffed up and browned.
Serve with some more torn basil leaves scattered on top.
The smell of spices toasting on a dry pan, the perfume of rose water, the intense heat of red chillies, the combination of the familiar and that which transports you to faraway lands.
I like to think harissa can be used in any number of dishes to elevate them to something altogether more luxurious and special.
Harissa is a north African chilli paste but this doesn’t stop me using it and adding it to all kinds of meals, whether it is whipped into a butter and spread over an organic chicken for roasting, or combined with oil and vinegar and shaken vigorously into a salad dressing.
Usually you would use some good quality tomato pureé (around 2 tablespoons), but seeing as it is summer, we have made this one with fresh tomatoes which we cook down into a sort of quick, fresh pureé.
5 small red chillies
5 small dried chillies
Half tsp of cumin seeds
Half tsp of fennel seeds (or caraway)
Half tsp coriander seeds
1 garlic clove
2 tsp of Pedro Ximinez sherry vinegar
2 tbsp of rapeseed oil
Pinch of salt
Half tsp of preserved lemon skin
1 tsp rosewater
Quarter tsp of dried rose petals
For the tomato puree:
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped
A pinch of salt
A pinch of sugar
A teaspoon of olive oil
To make the puree, simply cook down the tomatoes with a little salt, sugar and oil until you have a nice thick consistency.
You can remove the tomato skins prior to cooking if you like, but usually don’t bother as everything is blitzed until very smooth. You can make ahead and keep in the fridge. You will be using just 2 or 3 tablespoons of the puree for the harissa.
Toast the seeds on a dry pan for a few minutes until the aroma becomes toasty and fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to powder.
Remove stalks on the fresh and dried chillies and if you don’t like it too hot, slice them all in half and remove the seeds.
Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth and well combined.
Transfer into a small sterilised jar and refrigerate, keeps for at least two weeks.