x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Beef up simple meals with sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes give an intense, almost meaty lift to many dishes. Here's how to make your own.

Sun-dried tomatoes give an intense, almost meaty lift to many dishes, and in a hot country like the UAE, nothing could be easier than drying your own. If you're too impatient to wait the four days necessary for this recipe, you can speed things up by drying out your tomatoes in a very low oven, then leaving them in the sun for just a day. 50 best quality plum tomatoes 2 tablespoons sea salt oregano (optional) cheesecloth

Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthways. Place cut side up on a large tray and sprinkle with sea salt, plus a little oregano if you like it. Cover the tray with cheesecloth (this is to protect the tomatoes from marauding insects) and leave them on a sunny balcony. The drying process should take about four days in September Emirates weather, and you should take them inside overnight to protect them from dew. The end product should be entirely dry but still flexible, and will keep for a long time un-refrigerated. They are particularly good stored in jars filled with olive oil, though these will need refrigerating. Leave them for at least a day after bottling to soften and absorb the oil.

This excellent salad is well worth the little extra effort required preparing the broad beans. As the tomatoes have already shed much of their liquid, it also keeps in the fridge for a day or so. 1kg broad beans 100 grams sun-dried tomatoes in oil 4 fresh plum tomatoes 5 anchovy fillets (optional) 1 clove garlic 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice 4 tablespoons water 120 ml olive oil (get as much of this from the sun-dried tomatoes as possible) 1 heaped tablespoon flat-leaved parsley, finely chopped salt and pepper

First, shell the broad beans. If they are more than twice the size of your thumbnail (which by this time of year, they probably will be), scratch their skins with a knife and peel off - this may be time-consuming but it makes a huge difference. Throw them into boiling water and boil for four to five minutes until softened but still maintaining a bit of bite. Score the skins of the fresh tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Cover them with boiling water for thirty seconds, then drain immediately and peel off the skins. Chop roughly, sprinkle with salt and then leave them in a sieve for fifteen minutes to drain. While they are draining, chop the garlic clove finely and slice the sun-dried tomatoes into thin strips. Put the olive oil, vinegar, water, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and garlic in a pan and cook gently for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the broad beans. Add the tomatoes, mix thoroughly and leave the flavours to blend for four hours. Just before serving add the parsley. Serves four to five people.

This Franco-Tunisian recipe is a good way of turning an austere dish of chick peas into a full meal. 300 grams chick peas 4 eggs 1 onion 4 cloves 1 teaspoon fennel seeds ½ teaspoon ground cumin 5 fresh tomatoes 50 grams sun dried tomatoes 4 tablespoons olive oil 4 tablespoons wine vinegar 1 teaspoon mustard 1 tablespoon fresh mint 3 green peppers 1 tablespoon fresh basil salt and pepper

Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water, then rinse. Put in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of boiling water. Stud the onion with the cloves and add it to the pan along with the fennel seeds. Simmer the chickpeas for 90 minutes, then drain (discarding the onion) and leave to cool. Sometime during this cooking time, add the shell-on eggs to the pan and boil for 10 minutes until hard, then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool. Scald, peel and chop the tomatoes as in the recipe above. De-seed the peppers and chop them into small chunks and shell and chop the eggs. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into strips, then mix all the ingredients except the fresh herbs together in a large bowl. Leave to marinate four a couple of hours in the fridge, then stir in the freshly chopped herbs and serve. Serves six.