Green tomato cake and green tomato and zucchini relish
As we have tripped over the autumn equinox, it is time to start farewelling the vegetables that have filled our summer and early autumn months. It is also the time to start thinking about what to do with green tomatoes.
I have to confess that my first introduction to green tomatoes was through the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, where I was more interested in my “screen crush” than the actual cooking of the tomatoes. I did try frying green tomatoes some years later in the southern tradition but found them not to my taste.
My next adventure with green tomatoes was to make the traditional pickle: green tomatoes and onions, sliced and salted, drained and cooked in pickling liquid and then thickened with a cornflour and turmeric mix. Over the years I have tired of making this pickle and no longer enjoy its slightly slimy mouth feel.
This led me to scouring the library and the internet to find new ways to deal with my end-of-season crops. It seems I have come full circle and returned to the United States.
This cake is an oil-based spiced cake batter. It is moist and delicious but like many American recipes has a lot of sugar, so small slices are recommended. The cream cheese icing is made all the more delicious by the addition of brown butter, giving it a lovely nutty flavour. The cake keeps particularly well and will easily feed 12, but sometimes I make it in log tins and am able to get 24 slices out of my two logs.
The relish is my new favourite thing. Not only does it call for green tomatoes, but it uses zucchini as well – a double triumph of using up the last of the harvests before the shorter days and colder nights cover the leaves with a soft layer of mould and render the plants done for another year.
This recipe calls for the vegetables to be put through a mincer. If you don’t have one, use a food processor judiciously. Part of the charm of this relish is its texture, so don’t process the vegetables too finely. You will be rewarded with a condiment that has spirit and texture and is delicious with sausages or as a great side note to the last zucchini fritters of the year.
Green tomato cake
- 2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1⅓ cups vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
- 115g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 450g cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 450g icing sugar
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- For the cake, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 160ºC. Lightly coat two 22-centimetre cake tins with baking spray. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and again coat lightly with baking spray.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl and sift.
- In a large bowl, beat the oil and sugar on medium speed until fully incorporated (about two minutes).
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the tomatoes and beat until just incorporated (about 30 seconds).
- Decrease the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture to the green tomato mixture. Beat until just combined.
- Pour into prepared cake tins and bake for 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit in the tins for 10 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool on a rack.
- For the frosting, melt the butter in a pan and heat until it is lightly browned. Cool. Place the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract and salt in a mixer and beat until smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar and raisins. Spread the icing on the top of each cake and decorate with the toasted walnuts.
Green tomato and zucchini relish
- 1kg zucchini
- 700g green tomatoes
- 3 red capsicums
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup salt flakes
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 tsp pickling spice mix, wrapped in a little muslin
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric
- Remove the tops of the zucchini, the cores from the tomatoes, the tops and seeds from the capsicums and peel the onion and garlic. Chop into pieces and feed through a mincer using a coarse blade.
- Put the minced vegetables in a stainless-steel, plastic or china bowl with the salt and stir gently to combine.
- Top with about three cups of ice cubes, cover and let stand for three hours.
- Drain, rinse and drain again, gently pushing out any extra water.
- In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, pickling spices, mustard seeds and turmeric.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes.
- Add the drained vegetable mixture and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Pack into clean jars. Keep in the fridge. If you wish to preserve this for longer, you can place the sealed jars of relish in a pan of boiling water and boil for 20 minutes.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 10, 2021 as "Going green".
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