Taste test: Spiral’s dip and toss oils

spiral-oils

Spiral Foods has an exciting range of Mediterranean inspired dip and toss oils, made from 100% extra virgin olive oil. They come in three flavours:

  • sundried tomato and basil which was great in a greek salad (below)
  • rosemary and roasted garlic which was a perfect match for cold lamb and roasted vegetables salad
  • and basil and Parmesan which turned a simple potato salad into something special.

greek-salad

You could also use the oils for dipping bread in, or tossing through pasta for a quick and easy dinner. The best thing about these oils are that they are certified gluten-free and sugar free. What I really like about these products is there’s only natural real ingredients listed on the bottle, and there are no strange unpronounceable nasties.

All three flavours are balanced well and would make a delicious addition to your kitchen. They come in an attractive slim bottle, and would make a nice gift idea paired with packet of fancy pasta.

Available from the Spiral Foods website.

Thank you Spiral Foods for allowing me to trial these products. 

How to grow tasty tomatoes

Guest post by The Diggers Club

tomato tasting

About the Taste Test

The Diggers Club conducted a tomato taste test to see whether heirloom tomatoes could beat the supermarket hybrids. The taste test was held in February 2013 at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with South Australian garden experts, and cooks and gardeners invited.

Supermarket hybrids are usually dwarf bushy varieties which are easier to machine harvest and are bred for long-distance shipping. Being dwarf varieties they are invariably low in flavour with short harvest periods. The tasty long-harvest period heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, with lateral branches that continue to grow and therefore need support.

The seeds from these heirloom tomatoes bred in back yards over hundreds of years hold a continuous unbroken link to our history.

The Results

The top ten Diggers Club Tomato Taste Test results were all heirlooms:

Rank Variety Colour Size
=1 Hungarian Heart Pink Oxheart
=1 Jaune Flamme Orange Apricot
2 Tommy Toe Red Apricot
3 Black Cherry Purple-Black Cherry
4 Wild Sweetie Red Pea
5 Wapsipinicon Peach Opaque Apricot
6 Lemon Drop Lemon Grape
7 Ananas Noir Yellow/Black Beefsteak
8 Black Russian Black Apricot
9 Periforme / Granny’s Throwing Red Large pear
10 Purple Smudge Orange Beefsteak

We had three Italian Chef/food experts who rated Italian red heirloom Periforme the best, in preference to highly coloured heirlooms.

tomatoes in basket

Growing tomatoes

Tomatoes are easy to grow with 6 hours of sunshine per day in friable, well drained soil.

  • Sow seed into Jiffy or Peat Pots 6 weeks before transplanting to minimise transplant root disturbance. All but dwarf varieties need support.
  • Being frost sensitive they need minimum 15 degrees C soil temperature for up to 21 growing weeks. Plant out at 1 metre spacing.
  • Heirlooms will fruit from January for 3-4 months in cool climates and all year around in hot climates, hence the ubiquitous supermarket ‘winter’ tomato!

Summary

The first eighteen varieties preferred were all heirlooms from Hungry, France, Italy, Russia and America, and seven of the bottom eight were red commercial varieties from the South Australian market. Since the 1993 taste test which was won by Tommy Toe, fourteen varieties were regarded as better than the garden standard Grosse Lisse.

Would you pay four hundred times the price of heirlooms to an overseas corporation when you can save your seeds and replant for nothing?

Guest post by The Diggers Club

The Diggers Club top five heirloom tomatoes

A good tomato is one the fruits early and continues to yield over a long period. Our trials at Diggers prove heirloom tomatoes fruit earlier, have a higher yield and their flavour is preferred to commercial hybrids.

Here are a few of our favourite heirlooms:

tigerella

Tigerella: The best yielding tomato we have ever grown! It produces around 20 kilos of fruit per plant. The flavour is excellent, it fruits early and the ‘tiger stripes’ are very eye catching. One packet of seed could produce around 500kg of fruit!

green-zebra

Green Zebra: A tomato with a built in colour marker that produces yellows stripes indicating ripeness. This modern heirloom has been bred by Tom Wagner and created huge interest when we first introduced it in 1991. It’s an early tomato, and the green colour confuses the pests. One of the most beautiful, and now a classic, heirlooms.

jaune-flamme

Jaune Flamme: This jewel-coloured heirloom from France produces trusses of orange fruit very early in the season. For tomato guru, Amy Goldman, ‘Flamme can do no wrong. Unsurpassed for flavour and appearance.’

black-cherry

Black Cherry: Dark, sweet and juicy fruit makes them look just like cherries. The round and exceptionally sweet fruit is of the highest standard. It shows good disease resistance and is a strong a vigorous plant.

amish-paste

Amish Paste: Heirloom tomato expert David Cavagnaro rates Amish Paste 100 out of 100; the perfect score. Originating in the gardens of Amish communities, this has a rich sweet flavour for salads but is meaty enough for sauces.

Guest post by The Diggers Club

Market salsa recipe

market-salsa

The markets were quiet today – just how I like them. I was able to pay straight away (without queuing) and no bumping into dogs, prams and market trolleys. The ingredients for this salad are made from purchases from the same stall where the owners play music to their vegetables. I’m hoping this salsa makes me sing all afternoon.

Market salsa recipe

1 cucumber, small
a handful of tomatoes
3 capsicums, one of each colour
lime, juiced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
several leaves of fresh basil
a few strands of chives

  1. Peel the skin off the cucumber and dice. Dice the tomatoes and capsicum (red, orange and yellow). Add them to a serving bowl.
  2. Add the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil with the chopped herbs as a dressing. Mix together and serve.

Serves 2.

Tasty tomato salad recipe

tomato_salad

You’re probably wondering why there is even a recipe here for tomato salad. A few extra simple steps make all the difference from a soggy mess into something tasty.

We have used heirloom black Russian tomatoes in this dish. Any type of tomato will do, but make sure it is ripe and flavoursome. Consider varying the fresh herbs to whatever you have in the garden. Finely chopped shallots would also be suitable.

The dressing is a little on the generous size, so leave it in a glass jar in the fridge if you end up with too much dressing to tomato ratio (like I did).

Tasty tomato salad recipe

tomatoes, sliced
parsley, finely chopped
basil, finely chopped

Dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red or white wine vinegar

  1. Slice the tomatoes and place them in a colander over a bowl to collect the excess juices. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Leave to drain for 15-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, but there is no need to press them.
  2. Arrange tomato slices on your serving dish. Top with the parsley and basil leaves.
  3. Mix the olive oil and vinegar together in a cup and then sprinkle the dressing over the salad.
  4. Leave to stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Youvetsi (Greek)

greek_plate

Cooked for the Greek entry of the World Cup and Plate challenge. Youvetsi is a lamb and tomato baked dish with rice-shaped pasta.

Youvetsi recipe

1/4 cup Olive oil
500g lamb meat, chunks
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tin of diced tomatoes with juice
1 stick of cinnamon
30g of butter
200g risoni or orzo

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the lamb in batches until golden on all sides, then transfer the meat to a plate.
  3. Saute the onions until golden and softened. Add the garlic and cook for another half a minute, then return the meat to the pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and add the cinnamon and the butter. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Trasfer the mixture to a casserole dish and add 4 cups of hot water.
  6. Cover and bake for an hour or until the lamb is tender.
  7. Rinse the pasta in a fine sieve, drain and add to the casserole dish. Mix through, cover and return it to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed most of the sauce.
  8. You may need to adjust the pasta cooking time and add more water if needed.
  9. Serve hot. You may like to sprinkle grated parmesan, pecorino, feta or haloumi over the top.

Serves 2-4.

VARIATION: I’m planning on trying this one with rice, but you’d need to add it about 45 minutes in so that it cooks through. If you use rice it’ll will be gluten-free. Leave off the cheese on the top to make it dairy-free.

Tomato twinkies

tomato-twinkies

I predict that heirloom tomatoes will become a food trend some day soon, similar to how sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar were a few years ago. A couple sells heirloom tomatoes at the local markets and that’s where we were introduced to all the different flavours and colours. They can range from peachy yellow ones to ugly black flecked sweet ones.

Tomato twinkies are a family favourite and something I fondly remember eating with my dad after school. I haven’t a clue if anyone else calls them that. It’s important to use real butter and home-grown tomatoes. A few years ago, I changed the version slightly to Jatz biscuits with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and torn basil. Either way they’re still the best snack.

Sao biscuits
butter
tasty or cheddar cheese
tomato
salt and pepper

  1. Butter sao biscuits
  2. Top with sliced cheese and a slice of tomato.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Garden tomato and basil soup

Our tomatoes are starting to pick up the pace in our garden. We need to pick them early to stop the caterpillars having a feast before we do. Soup is a great way to hide any less then perfect tomatoes. I used some that had split from the fluctuating rain and my half-hearted attempts at remembering to watering. I recommend using a tomato peeler – it makes the job ultra easy with it’s special serrated jaws. Add some milk to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Make a big batch if you like, and then freeze the leftovers. You could use this recipe as a basis for passata for pasta sauce or a stew base.

Garden Tomato and Basil Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy milk or milk
1 tbsp sugar
½ lemon, juiced
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in some canola oil for several minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato, stock, soy milk, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Take off the heat and add some basil leaves.
  5. Puree in a blender or food processor.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with basil.
  7. Serve with toasted cheese sandwiches or a crusty bread roll for a easy dinner or quick lunch.

Variation: Use a tin of tomatoes or a cup of tomato juice (e.g. V8) instead of real tomatoes.

Serves 2.

Quick roasted tomatoes

We have harvested a few tomatoes already, although I’m going to confess these are just some bought ones. Tomatoes are called ‘pomodoro’ in Italian which means ‘golden apple’. This method of quick roasting leaves them retaining their shape. They were still watery and ideal as as a side served with the risotto.  They were like a fresh fleshy tomato sauce.

Tomatoes
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. Place tomatoes on a lightly greased baking tray.
  3. Season with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Alternative: If you have more time and would like to slow roast your tomatoes. Slice them in half. Change the oven temperature to 175°C, and leave them for 2-3 hours. Keep them moist with the olive oil. The liquid will have reduced and they will be crisper.

Damper Recipe

Australia isn’t known for its bread, but we do have damper. To make the traditional campfire bread more festive I’ve added some herbs from the garden, some leftover semi-dried tomatoes and a fresh tomato from our garden. The green and red flecks of colour make it ideal to serve at this time of the year. We prefer semi-dried tomatoes to the full sun-dried ones.

Damper

2 cups of self-raising flour
30g butter
2 tbps chopped chives and basil
1 tomato
6 semi-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk

  1. Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips.
  2. Add the herbs and chopped tomatoes and mix.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, add the combined water and milk in batches.
  4. Mix quickly to form a soft dough. Add more flour or water/milk, if required, to get the right consistency.
  5. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Brush with milk.
  6. Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes.