Heirloom tomatoes with a simple dressing

Unless you have tasted really beautiful tomatoes you might think this salad would be dull, flavourless and not worthy to grace your table. So many tomatoes are like that – lacking in flavour, almost chalky in texture, watery and unappealing. And with this dish there is nowhere for the tomatoes to hide. There has, however, been a resurgence in recent times of what people call “old-fashioned” tomato varieties, and ripening tomatoes on the vine, so it is possible to get tomatoes that taste as tomatoes should, with a little careful selection. I found these beauties in my local fruit shop and leaped at the opportunity to make this salad. I think they are the beefsteak, or perhaps ox-heart variety, but the fruit shop just called them heirloom tomatoes. It’s really important to serve at room temperature, and as it only takes about 5 minutes to make that should be no problem. Whatever you serve this salad with will be a hit. If you are in the northern hemisphere and coming to the end of summer, I can imagine some grilled prawns (shrimp), crusty bread and crisp salad greens, eaten while sitting outdoors in the early evening. If, like me, you are living in the southern hemisphere, eagerly anticipating warmer weather, I am thinking of some grilled lamb chops, with hummus and pomegranate molasses drizzled over the top, plus cous cous with currants and almonds for an outdoor lunch on the deck. Enjoy, wherever you are.

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 large heirloom tomatoes, plus 1 beautiful, vine ripened tomato
a handful of basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
a dash of good quality red wine vinegar

Using a microplane, or the finest side of a box grater, grate the vine ripened tomato into a small bowl. Strain through a sieve and pour the pinkish juices into a small jar with a screw top lid, discarding the pulp and the seeds. You =should have a couple of tablespoons. Add the olive oil, the red wine vinegar and a good pinch of salt, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine. Slice the tomatoes quite thickly and lay them on a serving plate. Just before serving pour over the dressing and scatter over the basil leaves. You can make ahead of time, but don’t refrigerate the tomatoes, as they will lose lots of their aroma and flavour if served cold.