Category Archives: Salads

Homemade Sun (aka Oven) Dried Tomatoes!

As regular readers will know it’s been a tomatoey summer at Chez Foti, and I have to admit my interest is now waining slightly. Though my 68 plants (beyond ridiculous I know, but down to an over-exhuberence in seed sowing and an ever growing number of fruitful self-seeders!) are most definitely not waining and unlike last year there’s not a diseased leaf in sight. And I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this!

Of all the ways to attack a glut of tomatoes this is without question my favourite. Many a batch has been made and enjoyed over the course of our summer, and I’ve just realised I’ve not blogged how to make them. And lots of people have been asking. But beware they’re fabulously addictive. I’d hate to know how many I’ve consumed the last few weeks, but I can promise you I won’t ever be buying another shop bought jar again. The homemade ones are simply sublime beyond sublime. And I’d go as far as to say they are the single most tastiest thing I’ve EVER made! Amazing in pasta dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, or served as an antipasto with drinks. The latter being my favourite way so you can truly appreciate their flavour (if stored in the fridge make sure you serve them at room temperature).

A basket of plummies!

I have to admit I’ve not made mine in the most orthodox way. After much googling it seems that few people bother with attempting real ‘sun’ dried tomatoes as it’s a pretty tricky and lengthy affair, even if you do have guaranteed hot sunshine for several days. Pretty much all commercial ‘sun’ dried tomatoes are oven dried, as are the home produced ones. So an oven is required, but all searches on google required an oven that would heat to a mere 100 to 120°C (and to bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, depending on their size and water content). My temporary gas oven most certainly goes no where near this low so I improvised. By placing the trays in the coolest part of the oven and periodically switching the oven on and off to it’s lowest setting over the course of 24 hours (admittedly I wasn’t dedicated enough to do it through the night!) I’m pretty confident I achieved the same results. And it shouldn’t go without saying saved a good deal of energy on the normal method. A total success.

My other googling find was that plum (also known as Roma) tomatoes work the best, mainly because of their lower water and seed content and larger proportion of fleshy bits. Handily I’ve lots of those!

The Pre-baked Sun Dried Tomatoes

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

As many tomatoes as you want to use, preferably plum tomatoes

a little salt

a little pepper

a little sugar

several sprigs of thyme

extra virgin olive oil

Decide how you’re going to bake your tomatoes. If your oven can be set to as low as 100º or 120º you could go with this and bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, checking every hour or so whether they’re ready. Alternatively you could bake them like myself at a temperature of around 160º but turning off the oven every time it reaches this temperature and leaving the tomatoes within to cool down and slowly dry out. This will take around 24 hours and 5 to 8 turning on and off sessions (not including the night!). You must take care not to forget and that they don’t stay too hot for long or they’ll colour and taste burnt in a matter of minutes (this happened with one batch of mine!)

Pre-heat your oven to the desired choice of heat setting.

Cut each of the tomatoes in half lengthways. Using your finger carefully scrap out most of the juice and seeds. Place each cut side up on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Continue until all the tomatoes are halved and prepared. I do at least a couple of trays at a time, but this is an awful lot of tomatoes!

Sprinkle over the merest amount of black pepper, sea salt and sugar on each tomato half. Drizzle on a tiny amount of the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of thyme.

Place in the coolest part of the oven and bake according to your chosen heat setting.

The sun dried tomatoes are ready when the liquid has evaporated, they are considerably reduced but are still flexible to touch, a very deep red and are a little chewy or tacky. The best way to judge them in my view is to taste a couple every now again! You’ll know when they’re perfect.

I stored mine, once cooled, in a jar of olive oil with a few slivers of garlic, in the fridge. They also kept very well for several days in the fridge just plain. Believe me you won’t be able to keep them long anyway! Try not to eat them straight out of the fridge, let them warm to room temperature first.

Here’s some of my other recent tomatoey recipes: A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces, One Pot Ratatouille, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Garden Pasta, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

The post-baked finished sun dried tomatoes


Chorizo & Manchego Salad

A winter warmer of a salad today, and one for the grown up folk really, unless your kids happen to eat salad which mine very definitely don’t …..at least not yet anyway. Philipe and I often have a late night supper salad once the kids are in bed, but we’re not talking a couple of lettuce leaves and a spray of dressing here, we’re usually talking pretty substantial. More often than not there’s something sausage like, a little cheese, definitely croutons and sometimes potatoes. A salad for the boys really.

Today’s chorizo salad is simply lots of lovely salad leaves (fresh from the garden in our case), chopped parsley, sliced red onion, some strips of pepper (or a few preserved peppers from a jar), cubes of Spanish Manchego (or any other flavoursome sheep’s milk cheese, but even a good goats cheese works well), fried chorizo slices and last but certainly not least lots of crunchy croutons fried in the remainder of the chorizo juices and a little hot smoked paprika to boot. Smoked paprika is the main spice in chorizo and is used widely in Spain, it gives a great little smokey spice kick to many a casserole or stew or even a crouton in this case!. The salad’s then simply tossed together in a sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. Inarguably this is my favourite of our ‘winter’ salads.

Enough for two hungry grown ups:

120g chorizo, cut in 3 to 4mm slices, skin removed

a little olive oil

a small interesting lettuce, or a bag of lovely leaves, washed and torn

1 heaped tbsp of chopped parsley

1/4 of a red onion, finely sliced

1/2 a red pepper, cut into thin strips OR a few preserved peppers from a jar (available in good supermarkets or delis), sliced into strips

100g manchego cheese or any other sheeps or goats cheese, cut into 1cm cubes

40g stale white bread, cut into 2cm cubes

a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (optional)

1 tbsp of sherry vinegar

3 tbsps of good quality olive oil

salt & pepper

Start with frying off the chorizo slices in a frying pan, adding just a little olive oil. Fry for about five minutes until golden on both sides, turning frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the lettuce, chopped parsley, red onion slices, red pepper strips and cheese cubes in a large salad bowl.

Make your dressing by briskly whisking together a tbsp of sherry vinegar with 3 tbsps of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Once your chorizo is cooked remove from the frying pan with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen roll. Add another splash of olive oil to the frying pan along with a pinch of salt, a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (if using) and another of black pepper and place back on the heat. When the oil’s hot add the bread cubes and immediately turn to coat all sides. Continue to cook a little on all sides until the croutons are golden and crunchy, turning very regularly so as they don’t burn. The whole process will only take 2 to 3 minutes. When cooked drain on some more kitchen paper.

Add the slightly cooled chorizo to the salad and about half of the dressing. Toss the salad well, ensuring everything’s evenly coated. Taste and add more dressing to suit. Scatter the croutons on top and serve immediately.

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Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad

A grown up salad today, our late night supper of last night!. Admittedly it’s a tad cold outside and not exactly salad eating weather, but with the addition of hot goats cheese crunchy toasts this makes a pretty good winter warmer of a salad.

Salad au Chevre appears on virtually every restaurant menu around us here. The first couple of times I ordered it I was expecting a large leafy salad with a little goats cheese tossed in. Alas no. It is in reality two or three large hunks of goats cheese on toast placed on a few stray lettuce leaves, sometimes with a scattering of walnuts, and usually with a little honey drizzled over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining as I love it, but it hardly constitutes a ‘salad’ does it?!

So here’s my compromise on the salad. Lots of salad leaves (I used rocket from the garden), diced beetroot (it’s majorly in season @ Chez Foti right now) and walnuts (picked down the lane a few weeks ago) all tossed in a simple walnut oil and red wine vinegar dressing, with three slices of toasted french bread and goats cheese….and a generous drizzle of honey. Honey in fact from our roof. A few months ago we had three bees nests removed and reaped the sticky benefits with a few jars of honey. So all in all there weren’t too many food miles clocked up in this salad!.

I’m loving our homegrown beetroot. Not only is it exceptionally easy to grow with minimal watering or effort, it just seemed to look after itself, but it’s so sweet and delicious. I’m also finding great use for the leaves and stalks in curries, stir fries and stews, and taking great delight in the pink beetrootie tinge they add!

Local beekeepers removing the bees nests from our roof!

Homegrown rocket & beetroot

For a hearty dinner for two:

6 baby beetroot, or 1 very large full sized

2 very large handfuls of flavoursome baby leaves or rocket, washed

40g of walnuts halves

1 tbsp of red wine vinegar

3 tbsps of walnut oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices of good quality french bread or sourdough, cut into 1cm thick slices

a little olive oil

130g of goats cheese (preferably in a log), cut into 12 slices

honey to drizzle

Firstly you need to cook and prepare your beetroot. Place them whole with the skin still on and a few millimetres of the root and stalks attached (this prevents them bleeding out too much colour) in a pan of boiling water.  If you’re using baby beetroot, simmer for about 30 minutes, if full sized for about an hour and a half. When cooked remove from the pan and allow to cool. Slip off the skin, root and stalk – it should all come away very easily. Dice into small even sized pieces.

Now to make your dressing. In a bowl whisk the red wine vinegar, walnut oil, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper together.

Grill the bread slices on both sides until slightly golden. Drizzle over a little olive oil and place a couple of slices of the goats cheese on each piece and put back under the grill until the cheese has melted.

Meanwhile place the salad leaves in a bowl with the diced beetroot and walnut halves. Add the dressing and toss lightly together. Lightly as you don’t want the beetroot to stain the leaves too much. I actually tossed the salad leaves and walnuts separately to the beetroot to prevent this!.

Place the salad on a plate with the goats cheese toasts on top. Drizzle a little honey all over, but particularly on the goats cheese. Serve immediately!


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