During my time in Italy, I have had many opportunities to see a variety of impressive pantries of the Italian home cook, pantries that have only put mine to shame. Italians are so good at keeping an amazing array of preserves, tomato sauces and liquors on hand.

Seasonal vegetables blanched in vinegar, over-ripe fruit made into jam and under-ripe fruit jarred in alcohol.

Each time I see a new kitchen, I have a desire to cook something new or copy something that I have seen and tasted. These visits have become a nice motivation for me; in turn I have begun experimenting with my own cooking and expanding my own pantry. I have come a long way from my baking days, and recently have been taking pride in the preserving side of things. Now that it is becoming colder, I am quite excited to be opening these experiments (good and bad) with family and friends at the dinner table.

I have slowly gained a small collection of preserves and jams, all made by me. My pantry is still relatively small in comparison to the elderly ladies that live on my street (some people have whole rooms dedicated to years of preserving), however, I am enjoying the slow collection of recipes, jars and excuses for a pre-dinner wine and snack!

There is nothing more satisfying than presenting and eating your own preserves during an aperitivo with friends. One of the best results I have had so far are for my cheat sun-dried tomatoes. My dad loves these. They are the perfect accompaniment to a crusty piece of bread or piece of sharp cheddar.

This recipe is so easy and very tasty. You can alter the ingredients to your taste - use as many different dried herb combinations as you like, such as; rosemary, oregano, or basil; I use Herbs de Provence.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes [easy]

Allow the final product to infuse in their oil for at least one week
1 x kilo of cherry tomatoes
2 x tablespoons of dried herbs
2 x garlic cloves
Sea Salt
Pinch of brown sugar (optional)
Splash of good quality olive oil, plus more for conserving
2 x 250 ml empty jars, clean.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Cover a baking tray with baking paper. Half the tomatoes and garlic, and place them on the tray facing up. Sprinkle with herbs, a good grind of salt and sugar (if using), then drizzle some olive oil over the top.

Place the prepared tomatoes in the hot oven, sitting them on the highest rack. Reduce the oven to 180 degrees. Leave the tomatoes to bake for 1.5 - 2 hours, or until they begin to darken around the edges and the middles have sunken.

Once ready, remove the tomatoes and reduce the oven to 160 degrees. Add the jars and their lids, facing up. Leave to sterilize in the hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove the jars with an oven proof glove. Fill the hot jars with the oven-dried tomatoes, top with oil and seal.

For a more flavorsome result, leave the tomatoes to infuse in the oil for at least one week.

Note: The smaller the tomatoes the quicker they will cook.