There is plenty of life in the summer yet. The berries are coming at us in waves of scarlet, ruby and black; the early plums and pledges are ready for pies and jam, fresh filbert nuts are here to munch on, and the tomato glut will keep us busy.
In the years when I grew tomatoes in earnest, first in wide terracotta pots, then up canes in the vegetable beds, the fruits would often ripen all at once, leading to the need for every tomato recipe in my head. Soup, of course, but also crisp tomato tarts with an underlayer of basil pesto. The plumpest variety, Marmande, would be stuffed with cannellini beans and parmesan or rubbed over the coarse side of a grate on to toasted, sliced focaccia with a spreading of olive paste.
The larger fruits also roasted well, glossy with olive oil, their copious scarlet juices used as a sauce for wide ribbons of pappardelle or gnocchi. This year I have been using their roasting juices to enrich a thick sauce of butter beans and Korean chilli paste to sit under the roasted fruits. Sumptuous, sustaining and with a tingle of spicy heat.
While the oven was hot, I made a favorite dessert, a vanilla-scented pudding that rises, soufflé-style, as it bakes and is served with a spoonful of summer berry sauce. Using redcurrants, blackcurrants and with raspberries introduced at the last minute, the sauce is very much a sister to the filling I use for summer puddings. This pudding can also be served cold, slightly deflated, shaken from its sugar-dusted dish and offered with the fruit sauce and a jug of cream.
Roast tomatoes, butter beans and gochujang
A deep, fruity warmth here from the marriage of cumin and gochujang. The onions need a long, slow cooking to reveal their sweetness. A little patience will be rewarded. Serves 4
For the baked tomatoes:
tomatoes 8 wide
olive oil 3 tbsp
For the sauce:
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
yellow mustard seeds 2 tsp
cumin seeds 2 tsp
gochujang 2 tbsp
butter beans (or cannellini if you prefer), 650g, tinned or bottled
Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 8. Put the tomatoes in a roasting tin, just touching, and trickle over the olive oil. Season with salt and a grinding of black pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until the tomato skins have browned on their shoulders and there is a generous layer of juices in the bottom of the tin.
While the tomatoes cook, get on with the sauce: peel and chop the onions. Warm the oil in a wide saucepan, add the onions and let them cook for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly, so they are soft, translucent and honey-coloured.
Peel and thinly slice the garlic and stir into the onions. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Stir the mustard seeds and cumin into the onions, letting them cook for 5 minutes until warm and fragrant, then add the tomatoes. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with a fork or wooden spoon as they start to soften, so their juices run.
Stir in the gochujang, then the butter beans and about 100ml of their bottling or canning liquor. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes. When the tomatoes are ready, carefully pour about 250ml (a couple of ladles) of the tomato juices in the roasting tin into the beans (enough to give a thick, soupy consistency).
Serve the butter bean sauce with the roast tomatoes.
Cream cheese puddings with summer berry sauce
Once you have added the stiffly beaten egg whites, mix them thoroughly but gently, then get the little puddings in the oven quickly. They are at their best when the center is only just set. Makes 5
For the pudding:
butter a little
caster sugar a little
caster sugar 50g
cream cheese 250g, full fat
vanilla extract 1 tsp
icing sugar a little to sprinkle over the top
caster sugar 2 tbsp
You will need 5 china or metal ramekins, each holding about 200ml
Lightly butter the ramekins, then sprinkle with sugar and place on a baking sheet. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into the bowl of a food mixer and the whites into a large mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar to the egg yolks and beat. Then, we have slow speed, mix in the cream cheese, cornflour and vanilla extract. Take care not to overmix. You should have a thick, vanilla-scented cream.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold into the cream-cheese mixture. Do this quickly but gently, making sure there are no lumps of unmixed egg white.
Divide the mixture between the ramekins, then bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and with a golden crust on top.
While the puddings bake, remove the currants from their stalks, put them into a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan with the sugar and water and bring to the boil. As the berries start to burst, lower heat to a simmer and tip in the raspberries. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the puddings from the oven and serve immediately, sprinkled with icing sugar, spooning the fruit sauce into the middle of the puddings as you go.
Follow Nigel on Instagram @NigelSlater