“Secret’s in the sauce.” – Sipsey (Film: Fried Green Tomatoes)
Eventually there comes a point in a cool-climate gardener’s calendar when one has to face the colder reality and accept that those immature, Solanum Lycopersicum, fruits of your summer labour, just ain’t gonna ripen! Rather than cry in a green-waste deluge over the lost juicey-red harvest, I decided to take a nostalgic walk down my childhood memory lane for some sol’ lifting, green-tomato cooking inspiration instead.
Summer holidays. Saturday afternoons. 1995. I guess one could they were a Rottentomatoes event! At fourteen hundred hours, as the kelpies helped Dad round up the cattle for the afternoon milking session, my mother and all of us kids would pile into the family sedan for a rapid fire trip to the local video store to select the evenings’ Film Night V.H.S. In the interests of avoiding any clandestine arm twisting or conniving inter-sibling brawls, a strictly enforced roster system was established so as to enable a more “uninhibited”, movie selection process. While the boys would always opt for a new-release, shoot-em-up, Hollywood action blockbuster, my pick-of-the-flicks adopted a slower, more Deep South centered pace: the Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy soulful special, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). A duel period drama-comedy set about a progressive diner in 1960’s Alabama, the characters take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as each employee plays their own unique part in an act of vigilante justice: at the Whistle Stop Cafe’, revenge is a dish best served piping hot and with a generous dollop of blood, red sauce.
Last month, as the daylight hours shortened and those bulky woolen legwarmers made their way to the front of the clothing selection line, it was time to take food lore into my own hands and lift from the earth, those stubborn green sols. Armed with pitchfork, gumboots and a whetted set of secateurs, my up-and-coming, savant scientists took to the streets with passionate fervour and used their “applied” home-learning lesson to make light work of the remaining emerald coloured eatables rambling their way through our recently procured Guerrilla Garden.
From corn bread and curry to pizza topping and that coveted Soil’n’T Green Tomato Chutney – a popular food swap among our fellow community gardeners – for many weeks to follow, that cavernous basket of burgeoning fruit would see our family kitchen running as hot as the hinges on the gates of Hades…to use a southern american expression. The resultant menu? Well I guess one could say that is was fit to please even the most captious of self-isolating family diners.
And so it is with great pleasure, and a Whistle Stop in my step, that I present to you my pick of our families rather agreenable feasting favourites, the secret recipe for enjoying a sizable slice of…
Sol’ Lifting Pie (delivers 6 – 8 soul lifting serves)
1 onion, diced
8 – 10 large green tomatoes, sliced
1 – 2 tbs brown sugar
1 – 2 chillis, deseeded and finely diced
½ c Italian herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary etc.)
¼ – ½ c Parmesan, grated
200g wheat flour
100g soy or sourghum flour
240g butter, cut into cubes
To make the pastry, mix together the flours and and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles that of breadcrumbs. Add 1 tbs cold water then bring the mixture together to form a firm dough. Form the dough into a disk then refrigerate for 30 mins.
In a heavy based fry-pan, fry the onion on a high temperature till translucent. Add the tomatoes. Fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in the sugar and chilli. Turn to low heat and cover with a lid. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the mixture burning. Stir through the herbs and the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper then leave to cool.
Roll out two-thirds of the dough to about ¼ of an inch thickness. Lay the dough over the base of a pie dish. Fill with the tomato mixture. Roll out the remaining third of the dough. Place over the top of the filling and, using a pastry brush, seal the edges together with milk. Roll down the edges to form a thick crust then coat the pastry with milk. Using a sharp knife, pierce a cross in the middle of the pastry roof to allow excess steam to escape. Bake at 200oC for 35 – 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden in colour.
Serve to your ravenous, undercovid home-school operatives with a side of end-of-season salad and a dash of Squashed Chutney.
Oh…and there’s just one more thing…
…remember…the secrets in the source. Shhh!