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All the things to cook when you're under a tomato glut

I don't have a garden, or an allotment, or a mad vegetable buying habit, so it's not often I have a glut of veggies in my house.

As an impoverished student, I like to enter a few competitions to try and win interesting stuff I couldn't normally afford. The other day, I managed to win a competition run by Chop'd, a salad and sandwich takeaway chain in London (happily, they do have a number of clearly marked vegan options at their stores!). Their Twitter competition said 'win a box of heirloom tomatoes'. I entered, was chuffed to win, and then went to pick up the tomatoes.

I had imagined a dainty box of beautiful toms, but ended up picking up a cardboard box that was on the huge side. Hauling it back on the tube was the most workout my biceps get in a year, and even had people pointing and gesturing at me. I'm not sure why a small woman with a large box of tomatoes was deserving of passersby nudging each other to look at me, but it was evidently the most interesting thing some people had seen on the Tube in recent times.

After managing to get the tomato feast home, I began to wonder what to do with so many rosy toms. Green ones, yellow ones, orange ones, dinky cherry tomatoes, and enormous cow's heart ones. They're beautiful, but there were so many of them - I wondered if they'd been breeding like Tribbles.

Since then, I've been finding all sorts of fun ways to cram tomatoes into lots of meals.

You can't really go wrong with putting things on toast, can you? Sometimes the simplest meals are the best: just a few tomatoes, a few mushrooms, salt and pepper, a little oil, and a really hot oven. 15 minutes later, you've got a respectable brunch or breakfast. Look - I've even put on some chopped chives, to try and pretty it all up. Well, that was the intention. Don't break my heart and tell me it just looks like someone was chucking some greenery around like a mad toddler.

Erm, this was a second attempt with beautiful black-red, green and plum tomatoes. The flavour of the tomatoes was lovely, but I think the whole chive thing went to my head, like I'm in an 80s cookbook or photographing the Happy Eater menu or something.  Note to self: stop messing around with chives, there are people on the internet looking at this.

This is more like it! A whole plate, and not a chive in sight*!

That's not to say there's not a lot of greenery though. Those ribbony bits are asparagus that I'd shaved to try and fancy it up a bit. (What is it with me and greenery and trying to titivate dinners?)

This was sort of an attempt at a pasta salad with an asparagus hat.

(*Confession - there totally were some chives in there. I made some chive oil with them and slathered it on. I don't know what I was thinking about. I'm not secretly sponsored by the chive marketing board, or otherwise a secret chive-pusher, despite what appearances might suggest. I think I just had a bag of chives going off in the back of the fridge and was desperately trying to eat the contents before they turned into the sort of green slime you find at the bottom of the local pond).

The tomatoes got a bit lost in the recipe in the end oddly, so I tried remaking it by roasting the asparagus and tomatoes. There were also no chives this time, really, I promise. Not a hint. The only green thing in there is a bit of spinach pasta and some green tomatoes.

So, I got rid of the chives. But does that mean I've got out of that 1980s cookbook groove? Not a bit of it.

When I was a kid, salads were the evil English triumverate of watery lettuce, cucumber and tomato, with some lump of frighteningly robust pie or other otherwise processed meat.

Turns out if you make a vegan equivalent (thank you Holland and Barrett porkless pie!) with some decent tomatoes, it's a much nicer experience.

Despite sneaking tomatoes into as many dishes as I could, the sheer size of the Chop'd tomato box meant I need to up my tomato consumption game or watch nature reclaim the lovely fruit.

Then I remembered - a recipe for homemade tomato ketchup that I tore out of a newspaper about three years ago! Yes! This must be the only time that one of those things I squirrelled away thinking 'I'll make this one day' I did indeed end up making one day.

Here's the recipe if you fancy making it yourself, though I recommend leaving it several years between making a note to make it and actually getting the saucepans out. Makes the recipe taste better if you do that, I'm pretty sure.

Here's how they turned out:

Isn't the colour beautiful? I can't tell you about the taste, as I've set the ketchup aside to mature a bit (like the recipe) before I eat it. It's a time and labour intensive process to make your own ketchup I discovered (not including the three-year wait), so it better be nicer than the stuff from the supermarkets. If it doesn't taste nice, then at least I can admire the look of it.

Part of the effort involves passing the sauce through a sieve to take out all the bits and seeds so you have a smooth sauce. Only then you end up with a thick paste with lots of flavour, and I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

So I didn't. I blended it up, and turned into a marinade for some baked tofu. It made part of a meal along with ajver, hummus, foules mesdames, pitta chips, and some more tomatoes! I stuffed them with polenta, which didn't entirely work (it fell apart in the oven into a bubbling lava-like mess) but it still tasted good.

That was the last thing I made with my mega box of tomatoes. I missed them when they were gone so much, I went out and bought some more. I guess I may not have worked out how to get rid of a tomato glut after all.

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  1. What a fabulous problem to have — too many tomatoes! Now that I don't have a garden I don't find myself with heaps of tomatoes anymore, but I have a recipe on my blog for spinach enchiladas with ranchero sauce from the old days of too many tomatoes. You first have to roast the tomatoes, but they are fabulous, and I recommend trying it at least once! In fact, I may now have to go in search of a tomato load. (And yes, the color of the ketchup is gorgeous!)

  2. My husband loves growing tomatoes and we often have a glut, but not this year - we have only two plants in the greenhouse. Wow, your prize is gorgeous and i love that the tomatoes are heirloom. Good that you found many ways to enjoy them, I often thinly slice and lay on puff pastry and bake with a little seasoning and its yummy. And I agree with Andrea, the colour of tomatoes (and smell) can be quite amazing.

  3. Tomatoes aren't ready yet here, but I like you ideas of trying them in different forms of fresh and cooked!

  4. Wow, what a great prize! I love your recreation of an 80's salad. You'll have to update us on how the ketchup turns out.

  5. That is a seriously gorgeous tomato haul! I think I'd have been overwhelmed and just sat on the kitchen floor eating them until they'd all disappeared.

  6. I'm still giggling at the idea of you on the tube drawing lots of attention with your big tomato box. You're obviously making good use of it!

  7. What an awesome win! And what great fun to find ways to use up all those tomatoes, they're so pretty and quite the variety. Love how you worked in the chives too. :-)

  8. I was beginning to think they had thrown in a box of chives with the tomatoes - ha ha - but seriously admire you for using up the chives - I don't always manage to avoid the green slime but I usually use up all the tomatoes because even if I get the end of a bag (I don't do boxes) I fry them up with some onions or vegies and serve them with dinner - they always taste so good! I particularly love how pretty your salad with the pork pie looks


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