Tomato Salad with holiday spirit

A photo of the Lake Salagou from above.
This is a really easy tomato salad recipe, but it is fantastic. As you (should) know, we have a lot of tomatoes each year and I have come up with loads of ways of using them, but this is our favorite and quickest tomato salad. Being a very creative cook, I sometimes go overboard on spices and “ooh, I’ll just roll this and tuck that, brown it, flip it and stack it” so this is a surprising none-of-all-of-that dish. As always, the recipe is at the end, but first it’s time for more holiday stories!

After leaving Capestang and our wonderful friends Mallory and Jeff, we headed slightly north to Lac du Salagou (Lake Salagou). This is a beautiful man-made barrage / lake surrounded by red earth and interesting rock formations. It reminds me of Hartebeespoort Dam in the Transvaal in South Africa – and if it looks like Africa its gotta to be good! We immediately fell in love with the place – you’re in Europe but with the tranquillity and craggy rock formations of Africa, but without the wild animals (unless you count the local dog who came by scavenging for food).

A photo of the red soil & rocks at Lake Salagou.

I remember (or “Once upon a time when I was very young…”!) hiking in the mountains around Port Elizabeth with my parents when one night a Meerkat* with her babies came into our cave and ate my sisters leftover sandwich (which she had carefully been looking after) while we were sleeping (or trying to). Poor thing was devastated (and hungry) but we did get to experience nature at work. Fortunately, the leopard we could hear “barking” (that’s what their call sounds like) nearby didn’t like jam sandwiches!

*The meerkat or suricate Suricata suricatta is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. It inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats at a time, but some superfamilies have had 50 or more. Meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years.

Okay, I think you get the Africa picture now so I’ll get back to our holiday! We drove the whole way round the dam before choosing the best spot to camp (this was after all a camping holiday and not a luxury hotel holiday), which just so happened to be the very first place we had stopped at. One lives and learns. “Camping sauvage” or wild camping is allowed so we set up camp right on the banks and went for a swim before lighting our Rocket Stove (more about this in another post) and warming our homemade bottled Goulash for supper. A glass of wine and the setting sun completed our little piece of paradise.

A photo of Joerg at Lake Salagou.

To quote my trusty “South of France” guidebook again, “west of Clermont-l’Herault, you leave the green valley for more peculiar landscapes around the Lac du Salagou, a large man-made sheet of water surrounded by hills that is much more natural looking and attractive than most artificial lakes. Circumnavigating it, you’ll pass some singular cliffs and weirdly eroded rock formations, and also the village of Celles, on the waters edge, now almost completely abandoned.”

A photo of the square in Celles.

Why is the beautiful village of Celles now abandoned? It doesn’t say. Do you know? It’s on the waters edge and could be a tourist destination, so Pour-quoi? Maybe it’s because some heinous thing happened there, something so unspeakable that nobody speaks about it… Or maybe it’s just my overly active and strange imagination and it’s merely because there isn’t a septic system or something equally boring. I shall stick with the first theory.

A photo of Celles water view.

In many places around the world, one finds heaps of stones that people erect as a sign of their visit or respect. Here people leave their names or loved one’s names in the sand with little stones. Some date back for years so they can’t get torrential rain or violent winds in the area. All the more reason to go back there. There’s also apparently a beautiful “cirque” in the area, but seeing as we didn’t visit it, I see no reason to mention it. These photos are taken from the village of Liausson and are a stunning record of my photographic skills, even if I have to say so myself!

A photo of names from little rocks.

We spent one night at the lake before heading down south to Sete on the Mediterranean, but we did return for 2 days on our way back, so you’ll hear about the oysters we had there when we get there. And so why are you getting a tomato salad recipe when we had Goulash for supper this first time round? Well, we took sooo many tomatoes with us, that we basically had tomato salad everyday and thus the recipe.

A photo of tomato salad.


(PS: The green/black bits you see in the photo are black capsicums (peppers) which I also have in the garden so I threw them in to. If you like peppers in any colour do add them as they add another level of crunch and flavor.)

I use whatever onions are on hand – red, white, shallots – as we love all onions, so use whatever you prefer. Joerg likes them cut in half moons (slice the onion in half lengthwise, lay it on the cut surface and then slice finely – again lengthwise), but you could dice them if you prefer.

As for the herbs and spices, go easy at first as you don’t want to be overpowered by anything. Except maybe tarragon which I personally think one can’t have enough of! If you don’t have or (heaven forbid) don’t like tarragon, the salad works just as well with a sprinkling of parsley, chives or basil. If using fresh herbs, a couple of tablespoons work beautifully.

Oil and vinegar quantities can be adjusted to taste. If you use a different vinegar, then use slightly less so as not to over acidify the salad.

1 kg / lb tomatoes, sliced or quartered
1-2 onions, red or white, sliced thinly in half moons
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon (or parsley, chives, basil)

A sprinkle of each of the following spices:
Garlic powder
Aromat / Fondor (optional)
Maggi (a seasoning similar to soy sauce)

6 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Place the tomatoes and onions in a bowl and sprinkle the spices over them. Mix it up gently then pour over the oil, mix again and then pour over the vinegar and give the final mix.

Don’t let it sit around too long as otherwise the tomatoes go soggy. Not a problem in my house as I have generally eaten half the salad before it hits the table! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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you had me at the first picture - its amazing

but then you sucked me in with the wonderful sounding tomato recipe - alas I see that my wonderful summer tomatoes are coming to an end but hopefully I can scrounge up some beauties to make this dish

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