CRAVE: Recipes arranged by flavour, to suit your mood and appetite by Ed Smith (Quadrille, £25) Photography: Sam A. Harris
Fermented and Fresh Tomato Salad With Feta
- 500g (1lb 2oz) large beef heart tomatoes or similar, cut into chunks of varying shapes
- 300g (10½oz) fermented cherry tomatoes (see below) and 2 tbsp of their brine
- 2 pita breads
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Leaves picked from 7–8 sprigs tarragon, finely chopped
- Leaves picked from 4–5 sprigs mint, finely chopped
- Leaves picked from 7–8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp golden caster (superfine) sugar
- 2–3 tsp sumac
- 200g (7oz) sheep’s feta
- Flaky sea salt and ground black pepper
- Fermented cherry tomatoes
- Fills 1 x 2–3 litre (70–100fl oz) jar
- 1 litre (41/3 cups) water
- 30g (1oz) flaky sea salt
- 20g (¾oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 600g (1lb 5oz) cherry tomatoes
- (a mix of colours is nice but not essential)
- 1 mild red chilli (optional)
- Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F.
- Put the tomato chunks along with any juices into a mixing bowl, add just a little salt (a pinch or two). Spoon the fermented tomatoes and two tablespoons of brine on top, but don’t mix just yet. Set to one side.
- Open the pita up with a sharp knife to create two thin halves, then tear each of those into thumb-size shards. Place the pita on a baking sheet, tumble in two tablespoons of the oil, then bake for 10–12 minutes until golden and crisp.
- Prepare the herbs, add to the tomatoes, along with the still-warm pieces of pita, red wine vinegar, sugar and half the sumac. Gently tumble the salad so as to avoid popping too many of the cherry tomatoes. Check for seasoning and add black pepper and more salt and vinegar if needed.
- Decant the salad onto a platter or individual plates. Scrape any juices over, crumble the feta on top, and finish with the rest of the olive oil plus a dusting of sumac.
You do technically need to have fermented cherry tomatoes on tap for this, but if you want to make the salad right now, then you could substitute them with the same quantity of cherry tomatoes roasted in one tablespoon of olive oil for the same time as the bread (10–12 minutes). They should be shrivelling but still definitely tomatoes after this time. Drizzle with two teaspoons of red wine vinegar, a pinch or two of sugar and salt, allow to cool just for a moment then fold them and any juices from the tray through the salad at the last minute, after the toasted pita.
Fermented cherry tomatoes
Fermented cherry tomatoes are intense little flavour bombs that fizz and pop with lactic sourness. They’re something I first came across thanks to the Ukrainian food writer Olia Hercules, and now make them often, nearly always having a jar to hand, and probably another batch on the go. Originally, this method was going to be included within one of the next two recipes (in which you’ll see they are key). But on reflection, fermented cherry tomatoes deserve a page of their own – add them to or serve with a cheese toastie, enjoy cold next to omelettes, gently warmed to go with scrambled eggs, or fully cooked-down into a layered and umami-rich pasta sauce.
- Measure the water, salt and sugar into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stir to dissolve the grains, then leave to cool completely.
- Sterilize a Kilner jar (or similar). Wash the tomatoes and chilli (if using), add to the jar and pour over the cooled brine. You may not need it all, though the tomatoes do need to be completely submerged to prevent spoiling – this is easily achieved by partially filling a clean, sealable sandwich bag with water and placing it above the tomatoes before sealing the jar.
- Leave in a warm place for 10–14 days, until the water is cloudy and the tomatoes sour, blistered and fizzing. Unless using within a day or so of being ‘ready’, transfer to the fridge (if necessary, decanting the tomatoes with enough brine to cover them into smaller containers to suit your fridge) where they will last for 3–4 months.