In the days before refrigeration, before canning, one of the best preservatives was the heat of the sun. Hot countries such as Italy used the power of the sun to dry fruit and vegetables, making full use of the summer and autumn glut. I’ve been in the South of France for a month, where the thermostat is usually hovering around the 30ºC mark. I bought a large crate of plum tomatoes and experimented with sun-drying them. Traditionally this is done on a roof and it just so happens I have access to a clay tiled roof. I also bought a wide tray from St. Tropez market with a screened dome, perfect for this experiment.
I can honestly say the sun dried tomatoes are the best I’ve ever eaten: not rubbery or tough, with no additives or drying agents, just sweet ruby red real produce.
Sun Dried Tomatoes
A kilo of tomatoes, sliced lengthways in half
A little salt
Lay the tomatoes out on the tray, sprinkle over the salt and drizzle the olive oil. Cover with some kind of screen. Leave in the sun for four days. The tomatoes will shrink considerably. Eat on their own or chopped finely into pasta with garlic and butter.
Sun Dried Apricots
A kilo of apricots, sliced in half, pit removed
Leave to dry for four days.
Mango Atchar pickle (ongoing)
1 kilo of green mango, pit removed, diced with skin on
3tbsp sea salt
1tbsp mustard seeds
1tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tbsp fenugreek seeds
1tbsp coriander seeds
1tbsp chilli powder
250ml mustard oil
Chop up the mango, leave for two days in the sun. Add the spice mix.
After four days heat up the mustard oil then let it cool.
Mix with the mango and spices.
Pour into a sterilised jar.
Leave for a couple of weeks before eating.