Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Home-dried tomatoes: Hamper project no. 1

Damn Kirstie Allsopp. Come November, she pops her cheery head through all media outlets to remind us to "get our skates on", and prepare our homes for the festivities. Presumably she has a nanny, cleaner, and PA... For those of us who struggle to find time to run a bath, let alone recline in one whilst stitching a patchwork cushion, making gifts is a major undertaking. So, everything I'm making for this year's Christmas hampers has to be a delicious 'treat', but must also be cheap and quick to make.

Oven-dried tomatoes are first on the list, as they keep well. I've always wondered why sun-dried tomatoes are so expensive when bought in jars and tubs in the supermarket, as they are incredibly cheap and easy to make at home (and the oven mimicking the heat of the sun doesn't appear to impair the flavour). The 2nd Leon cook book has a lovely recipe, but it involved a long cooking time. Better still was the Riverford Farm Cook Book's recipe: the prep takes 5-10 mins, and the cooking just 45 mins, creating tomatoes that are juicy rather than chewy (preferable, in my opinion).

Attach a gift label to the jar with instructions for storing on one side, and suggestions for use on the other, such as 'Toss in a salad, use in tarts, or mix with pasta'.

These quantities will fill one 1/2 pint Le Parfait jar.
  • 4 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 16 tomatoes (I used regular round 'on the vine' tomatoes from the supermarket)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • sea salt
Drizzle half the olive oil over 2 baking trays. Cut the tomatoes lengthways in half, then slide the knife around the inside of each one and remove the pulp and pips. Arrange the tomato halves on the trays so that they are close but not touching. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top and sprinkle with the sugar and a little salt.

Put the trays in an oven preheated to 150C/Gas 2 and cook for about 45 mins; the tomatoes should look shrunken and slightly coloured when they are done. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To store, pack the tomatoes into jars and cover completely with good-quality olive oil. Add a sprig of thyme and some thinly sliced garlic to the jars if you like. They will keep for 4-6 months without refrigeration.


  1. The hamper project is underway! These look lovely – well done you. It's a nice feeling when you've made a start on Christmas and it all suddenly seems a bit more manageable.

    I plan to continue my preserving project tonight. I bought a load of quinces at the Turkish Food Centre yesterday, so homemade membrillo here we come… xx

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Michelle. With spiced nuts, it's definitely up there with the quickest food gifts. Will you be making any this year?

    Hi Sarah: yes, I'm on a roll! Trying to get as much done in advance as possible. I await your membrillo post with keen anticipation. Glad I've finally subscribed to updates.