Precious heirlooms

Frank Camorra
Once you try heirloom tomatoes, it's hard to go back to the hard, tasteless versions often sold in supermarkets.
Once you try heirloom tomatoes, it's hard to go back to the hard, tasteless versions often sold in supermarkets. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Tomatoes are so different from when I grew up, with so many heirloom varieties now available, such as black russian, tommy toe and green zebra. They are sold at farmers markets and good greengrocers.

Once you try them, it's hard to go back to the hard, tasteless versions often sold in supermarkets. The various types have their own distinct tastes and different acid levels, so you can match a tomato to a certain flavour in a dish.

Black russians taste earthy and work well with grilled meat or the goat's cheese in the pastry tart above, while green zebras are low in acid and perfect for a light summer salad.

This tomato salad is a favourite in the bars of Andalusia, where it is made to order - the sharp freshness of the dish makes a great foil to deep-fried food. It is refreshing on a hot summer's day and great as a side dish.


8 ripe tomatoes e.g. beefsteak, black russian, green zebra

1/2 tsp dried oregano, finely ground

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp sea salt flakes


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

2 tsp white wine vinegar

Cut tomatoes into thick slices. Arrange on a large serving plate and sprinkle with oregano.

Place garlic on a chopping board and crush cloves with flat side of a large knife. Sprinkle with sea salt, then pound into a smooth paste with flat side of knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in olive oil.

Cover tomato slices with onion slices, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with vinegar, then the garlic mixture. Cover and leave at room temperature for an hour so flavours mingle.

Serves 6



1 x 25cm square sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg yolk, whisked

8 (400g) black russian tomatoes or other ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm- thick slices

100g black olives, chopped

Sea salt and pepper

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

50g goat's curd

10 basil leaves, roughly chopped

Line a baking tray with baking paper and place thawed pastry on it. With a sharp knife, score a border 2 centimetres in from the pastry edge on all sides.

Brush yolk over pastry but don't drip over edges, which prevents pastry layers rising. Prick all over pastry base with a fork and chill for an hour. Cover a tray with a double layer of paper towel and lie tomato slices on top.

Cover with more paper towel and leave to drain while pastry chills. Preheat oven to 200C. Bake pastry sheet for 10 minutes, then lower oven to 170C and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove pastry from oven. If the middle has risen, press it down lightly with a dry tea towel to leave a risen pastry edge around the outside. Spread chopped olives over the base then cover with tomato slices, slightly overlapping.

Season with a little salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil.

Return tart to oven for 15 minutes, then cool slightly on a cake rack. Transfer to a chopping board and use a serrated knife to cut into 6 rectangles. Top each portion with a dollop of goat's curd and chopped basil, season again, if desired, and serve.

Serves 6