In the early 80s Jeannie and Sam Chesterton left London for the hills above Seville in Southern Spain “with their brilliant light and clean, sharp air scented with pine, eucalyptus and rosemary”. There they set up Finca Buenvino, a bed & breakfast (including dinner) for gregarious food lovers. We stayed there earlier this year. It is remote and beautiful and very good for the spirit as well as the stomach, and made even better by Jeannie and Sam’s warm hospitality. We could not recommend it more highly as a diversion from a visit to Seville.
Jeannie does the cooking and has just published The Buenvino Cookbook, which contains some wonderful Spanish recipes but is above all “a reflection of our way of life and the food we share with our guests.” This is one of them; simple and delicious.
Moroccan tomato, cinnamon and almond salad
For the salad
4–5 sweet ripe beef tomatoes
1 large sweet white onion, if possible, or a sweet red onion
a little olive oil
large fistful of whole blanched almonds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh, ground Ceylon cinnamon
basil leaves, to serve
For the dressing
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp toasted argan, pumpkin, or sesame oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar, or good strong red wine vinegar
1 tsp English mustard powder, pinch of caster sugar, pinch of salt
We first came across this delicious combination when driving around Morocco in the mid-1980s. We had travelled up the Ourika valley and visited small argan oil producers. We brought several plastic mineral water bottles home to Spain, each filled with the nut-brown oil pressed from roasted argan nuts. In Morocco, or when we have just returned from travelling there, we would use toasted argan oil in the dressing for this salad; otherwise we use toasted pumpkin or sesame oils.
Slice the tomatoes across into thinnish discs. Slice the onion thinly and break the slices into rings.
Put some olive oil into a small pan and throw in the almonds. Toast them gently, stirring from time to time so they are evenly browned. Drain them on kitchen paper and allow to cool a little.
Meanwhile, put a layer of tomatoes on a wide shallow dish. Sprinkle with salt and a little sugar, then drop a few onion rings over them. Now grate some fresh Ceylon cinnamon over (not a thick layer, just a dusting). Repeat until all the tomatoes and onions have been used up, ending with a layer of cinnamon-sprinkled onions. Grind some black pepper over the salad.
Put the almonds on to a wooden board on a low table. Now get a wooden rolling pin and slowly, while the almonds are still warm and soft, lean down on the almonds, rolling the pin back and forth, until they are cracked. Scoop up the broken almonds and sprinkle over the tomato salad.
For the dressing, emulsify all the ingredients with a hand-held blender, adding 1 tbsp of water, and spoon over the tomatoes. Add some torn basil leaves here and there and bring to the table.