It won't be long now before the cost of tomatoes start climbing again. Soon we'll be walking by tomatoes piled high in the supermarket and even at the farmers or vegetable market, shaking our heads in disbelief. And on a very quiet news day, right smack in the middle of winter, a journalist might even decide to make a huge issue in the media about the cost of groceries, citing tomatoes (and eggplant) as an example. In the middle of winter. Did I already say that? Yeah...
I only buy tomatoes during winter if they're on special and even then, I wince a little at the price. Basically, fresh tomatoes don't feature in my winter cooking in a big way. Actually, off-season vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, eggplant and courgettes are often not on my shopping list during the cooler months. There are many other vegetables to indulge in and enjoy like pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and a wide range of root vegetables. As for fruits, there are mandarins, pears, persimmons, grapefruit and kiwifruit (and feijoas in autumn). So not eating fresh tomatoes weekly for roughly 3 months out of a year is not such a biggie. There's always a huge range of tin tomatoes that can be called upon which are especially good in hearty winter meals like stews, casseroles, curries and sauces like bolognese.
So when I was at the Sunday market a couple of weeks ago and saw these beauties still selling at summer prices, I grabbed the chance to buy a whole bagful. We may only have another week of summer-priced tomatoes (and very ripe ones!), at the Sunday market at least. I had no idea then what I was going to make - just knew that very soon, it'll be a while before I could indulge in such bulk-buying again for tomatoes.
A stock check when I got home had me turning most of it into tomato chutney and the rest into a pie, as I had a roll of pastry and a block of soft goat's cheese in the fridge. Pies are pretty popular at my place so that was an easy decision. They're pretty quick to throw together and 'S' likes it because it's easy to take a large wedge to work the next day for lunch.
There are pie-making days where I just mix all the ingredients together and fill the pie crust. And then there are days where I carefully lay each layer out and then stand back and admire my creativity (that's what I like to think anyway).
I gotta say, the tomatoes in this pie were just perfect - each bite was a burst of almost caramel sweetness due to slow roasting the tomatoes before hand.
For those of you out there who are old hands at pie making, this is a no brainer - not even a recipe! More so just me listing the ingredients I used. But for those novices out there, this really is a simple can't-go-wrong pie recipe. I suppose you could challenge yourself and make the pie crust from scratch. I'm happy using store-bought pastry - some of which are now 100% butter pastry. Store-bought pastry saves time, minimises pastry disasters (unless you're good at it) and affordable.
Roast Baby Tomatoes, Spinach & Potato Pie
Shortcrust pastry - store bought 400g block or easy pre-rolled sheets, or make your own*
Ripe tomatoes - baby or large ones on the vine**
1 big bunch of Spinach, torn - fresh or frozen***
2 medium sized potatoes - precooked and cut into thick slices
1 block of soft goats cheese - I prefer this to the salty crumbly feta cheese
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
* There are loads online on how to make pastry - recipes and how-to videos on youtube. Just Google it or here's a few links for you - Gordon Ramsay How To Make and How to Roll shortcrust pastry, shortcrust and puff pastry recipe, and another recipe.
** Leave the tops of the vine tomatoes on as they look nice sticking out of the pie when baked. But if you prefer to remove them, then do so. If you're using larger tomatoes, slice into thick slices before slow roasting them.
*** If using frozened spinach, make sure that it's defrosted and excess liquid is squeezed or dabbed out with paper towels.
- Preheat oven to 150C. Line a baking tray with baking paper - I like to do this so that the tomatoes don't stick onto the tray when the juices in them start to run and caramelise. Makes for easier cleaning!
- Arrange the tomatoes on your tray, drizzle with some olive oil and a light sprinkling of sugar. Roast for about 2 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. We want them still whole, sweet and roasted and not dried and breaking down. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool a little so that it's easier to handle the tomatoes.
- Turn the oven up to 180C.
- Roll out your pastry and line a lightly greased pie tin or dish with the pastry. Blind bake until the sides of the pastry is cooked and lightly browned.
- Whilst the pastry is being baked, pre-cook the potatoes. You can boil them. I find it easier to do this in the microwave - leave whole and the skin on and prick with a fork so that your potato doesn't explode in the microwave. Cook on high for 1-2 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes. You want the potatoes just cooked through and not soft and mushy. Cut into medium slices and put aside.
- Start building your pie by first lining the bottom of your pie case with spinach, followed by slices of cooked potatoes, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Next comes the layer of tomatoes - if using baby tomatoes, arrange them sitting up. Then crumble the block of soft goats cheese in between the tomatoes. Season with a bit more salt and pepper to taste on the top.
- Lightly beat the eggs, milk and cream together and pour into the pie dish/tin.
- Bake for 30-45 mins or until the egg mixture is cooked through and set.