We’ve just got back from a week-long beach holiday and one of the great things about Forster, the town we were holidaying in, was it had a great fruit and vegetable shop – The Farmer’s Patch, which sources most of its fruit and vegetables locally. You can always spot the urbanised city foodies because we tend to get very excited about anything locally grown and we bought boxes of fresh fruit and veggies with a great sense of abandon because, hey, they were locally grown but they were also cheap and good too.
Our holiday house came with a fantastically well-equipped kitchen but we ended up cooking a lot of the vegetables on the barbecue, because beach holiday cooking is all about the barbecue. I flame-roasted eggplants for baba ganoush, corn for grilled corn salsa, and the tomatoes for this salsa, which was a big hit with both the kids and adults. This salsa is great with corn chips as a dip but its flavour profile goes with just about anything, including a potluck curry night we had with friends on the Saturday night. It’s also got a pretty simple ingredient list, which is another essential for holiday cooking. Instead of fresh jalapeno, I used Tabasco sauce, which really is a must-have ingredient for holiday house cooking.
I usually make a fresh salsa with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumber, coriander, and Tabasco sauce for the bite, but last year, my son discovered the commercial jars of salsa with Dorritos at one of school end-of-year break up parties and he became slightly obsessed with this kind of cooked salsa, so I started experimenting with fire roasting tomatoes so they had the authentic smoked flavour. I usually flame-roast eggplants for my baba ganoush straight on the stove-top gas burners but when I tried doing that with tomatoes, it was a bit of a disaster. If you have a a decent grill on your stove (which I don’t), you can slice the tomatoes in half and cook them under the grill until the skins blacken and the tomatoes soften. You can also roast them in a hot oven with a drizzle of olive oil until softened and caramelised but that doesn’t really get you the smoky flavour. The best way is if you have a flame grill on the barbecue; just cook the tomatoes on medium heat until the skin blackens and the flesh softens. If you don’t have an open flame grill on your barbecue, the ridged cast iron grill works pretty well too.
Fire roasted tomato and mint salsa
- 6 small Roma tomatoes
- 1 small yellow or Spanish onion
- 1 small jalapeno chilli, stemmed or Tabasco sauce to taste
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons packed chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (or to taste)
- If you are cooking tomatoes and onions under a grill (broiler), cut tomatoes in half and onion into 1 cm rounds. If cooking on flame barbecue grill, leave tomatoes whole and cut onions into wedges, leaving the skin on (otherwise the onions will fall apart while cooking and fall through the grill into the flames). Grill tomatoes, onions and fresh jalapeno (if using) until skin is blackened and flesh is soft.
- Peel off blackened tomato, onion and chilli skin and place in food processor. (I usually leave on a bit of charcoaled skin for the extra smoky flavor and I have seen recipes for salsa where they leave on all the blackened skin for extra smokiness but that’s a bit radical for me)
- Add all other ingredients and pulse until desired consistency. It should be a bit like a thick soup (if it is a bit too thick, add a bit of water). Add Tabasco sauce (if using) and taste and adjust seasonings.
- If you don’t have a food processor, just chop all ingredients separately and combine.