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In a hot skillet, I swirl dice of shallot in a big puddle of olive oil. As the white clears I add thin crescents of carrot, then the beans and chunks of fresh tomato. When the whole lot softens I throw in handfuls of chunky-chopped parsley, drip a little water, and stir it up with salt and pepper.
I tip the red-white-green mixture into a low, long baking dish, smooth it across the bottom then throw in a sprinkle of sugar, more handfuls of parsley, and a liberal soak of olive oil. The dish goes into a hot oven and stays there for as long as I can bear, a couple of hours, just the odd check to prevent complete dehydration.
When it comes out the beans have caramelised, thick starchy insides chewy brown shells, infused with tomatoes, shallots and parsley. I cut slices and eat it like pecan tart, always just one more slice, so sweet and gooey you could even pour cream over it. That's real baked beans. You listening Mr Heinz?
I must have gone nearly 20 years without ever smelling a tomato. I planted some the other year in the small plot out back, and misplaced years of childhood returned to me, back to when every garden had a row of gro-bags and a pungent curtain of green-and-red toms. It's when you smell them that you realise there's nothing like eating a tomato fresh, off the vine - that taste fades so fast inside a salad washed with dressing.
For two weeks a mystery crop from Sardinia made a guest appearance in the local health-food store. A huge basket, diminishing by the day, balancing fat scalloped tomatoes, blemished and bulging from their skin. By the end of the fortnight I was returning to the shop twice daily, certain that each time would be the last, buying a kilo and taking them home to halve them with a huge blade and dot the exposed flesh with salt, pepper and olive oil. I wolfed down a kilo each time, and still my tomato-lust was unsatisfied. I want to move to Sardinia and farm mutant pumpkin tomatoes.
Butter and veg
Lather your body in fresh mango. Rub yourself down with an avocado.
Pasta and potatoes
Try this to get you started: a little soya milk, honey, a bundle of chopped dill weed, small blobs of silken tofu. Salt and pepper if you want. Perhaps a drop of lime and olive oil. Liquidise the lot, then pulse in little chunks of green peppercorn. Next time, try that on your coleslaw.
Burnt fruit breakfast
© Dan Sumption, October 2002
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