Sunday, 24 September 2017

Nigel Slater’s end-of-season vegetable and herb recipes

Make the most of the late summer glut with delicious baked vegetable tarts and herb-crusted tomatoes Three rectangular aubergine, basil and feta tarts lined up at an angle on an oval plate Last of the summer vines: aubergine, feta and basil tarts. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer Sunday 24 September 2017 06.00 BST There have been cries for help this week over what to do with the end-of-season vegetables and herbs – the final few stragglers on the vegetable plot. In particular the last shout from the tomatoes, courgettes, marrows and basil. “Can I freeze a glut of basil?” “Where are all the courgette recipes?” “WTF do I do with yet another marrow?” This week I made two fat aubergines and a rather heady mountain of basil leaves into crisp, generously filled tartlets; baked an oddball assortment of tomatoes with a herb crust for eating as a main course and made a soupy marrow and tomato stew with couscous, just to share some recipes to make the most of the last of the early-autumn produce. I could have bottled the tomatoes and frozen the pesto, but this was more fun, more immediate. I think of the next few weeks as a sort of edible tidying up And yes, of course, you could make pesto with all that basil. It is best pounded with sweet, white garlic and pine kernels, mixed with olive oil and then bottled with a further thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve it. It will darken considerably, and the flavour will dull a little, but it is still worth doing for a quick pasta dinner later in the year. Herbs, particularly the soft-leaved ones that are so pointless when used dried, can be blitzed with sugar (thyme or basil sugar is heavenly on iced eclairs or fruit tarts) or mixed with breadcrumbs and scattered over baked vegetables. The latter can also be used for coating escalopes before frying in butter, tossing in olive oil and folding into fettuccine, or used to make a crisp coat for shallow-fried green tomatoes. Looking at the bulging crates at the vegetable shop there is still plenty to play with: beefsteak tomatoes to stuff with mograbia and garlic; courgettes to fry in coarse polenta and lemon zest; marrows to bake with a filling of sweetcorn and melted cheese. And there are still plums to pickle and raspberries to flavour bottles of white wine vinegar. I think of the next few weeks as something of a turning point in the culinary year: a good time to clear the decks for things to come. A sort of edible tidying up. Aubergine, feta and basil tarts The tarts get only a few minutes in the oven, so it is important to make sure the aubergines are thoroughly tender, almost to the point of collapse, before you take them from the oven. I include feta for its affinity to aubergines and oil, but you could substitute grated parmesan to introduce a savoury note, if there is some handy. Makes 6 tarts aubergines 2, about 700g total weight olive oil 4 tbsp puff pastry 250g egg a little beaten feta cheese 100g For the basil sauce: pine kernels 30g basil leaves and stems 45g garlic 1 clove olive oil 120ml Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and put them cut-side up in a roasting tin. Score the cut surface of the aubergines first one way then the other, cutting almost through to the skin. Trickle 1 tbsp of olive oil over each one, letting it seep down into the cuts. Grind a little salt and black pepper over the aubergines, then bake for 50-60 minutes until the surface is golden brown and the insides are soft and silky. Bake the aubergines until the surface is golden brown and the insides are soft and silky Roll the pastry out on a floured board, then cut it into 6 rectangles, each measuring about 10cm x 8cm. Place the pastry rectangles on a baking sheet, score a line along each side of the pastry to form a 1cm wide rim. Try not to cut right through the pastry. Brush the rim on each tart with a little beaten egg, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Remove the aubergines from the oven then scoop the flesh from the skins into a bowl. Discard the skins. Place the chilled pastry in the oven and leave to bake for 15 minutes. Put the pine kernels, basil and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and blend to a rough purée, slowly introducing the oil as you go. Set aside. Break up the aubergine with a spoon or fork, then crumble in the feta. Add the basil sauce, loosely folding it into the aubergine. Remove the tart cases from the oven. Using the back of a teaspoon, press down the scored rectangle of pastry on each tart to give a hollow. Fill the tart cases with the aubergine mixture then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until hot. Tomatoes with basil crumbs Large orange, red and green tomato slices protruding through a dark green basil crumb mixture Facebook Twitter Pinterest Hot off the plot: tomatoes with basil crumbs. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer The herb-flavoured crumbs here can be used to form a crust for baked or sautéed courgettes, or for baked sliced aubergines. You can freeze the herb crumbs, too, but the leaves will darken and the basil notes will emerge more than a little subdued. Serves 4 basil 40g bread 75g, fresh white olive oil 3 tbsp tomatoes 750g, assorted Put the basil in a food processor with the bread and blend until you have green crumbs. Pour in the olive oil and briefly mix. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Slice the tomatoes thickly, 3 or 4 good thick slices from each one, depending on their size. Layer the tomatoes in a baking dish, seasoning each layer with a little salt, black pepper and the merest trickle of olive oil. Pile the basil crumbs on top and press down gently. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, removing the foil about half way through cooking. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before serving, spooning over the juices from the dish as you go. Email Nigel at or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater