Fragrant Stuffed Tomatoes
for times when you find BIG tomatoes…
My love of stuffed tomatoes started young. On a holiday to France we were driving through Marseilles. I think I was nine. My mum stopped at a charcuterie and as we waited in the car a girl rode by with a pet monkey on the child’s seat of her bicycle. The small black monkey, the smell of those still warm stuffed tomatoes, eating them as a picnic lunch…I can still taste how good they were. Its funny how certain memories are etched on your brain forever. So here is a recipe that I make over and over again whenever I find giant tomatoes.
Perhaps buying the tomatoes is half of the fun?
Gadgets & Gizmos
Deep baking tray or ceramic dish
Ingredients: serves four
This recipe is a guide and stuffed vegetables should be seen as handy recipients for leftovers, here I am giving a veggie version:
• 4 x 200g of big fat tomatoes preferably bought from the side of the road
• 100g rice and 50g green lentils and 25g currants
• 1 small onion finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• Selection of fresh herbs: parsley/ basil/ thyme/ mint chopped roughly
• 1/2 tsp allspice (quite important)
• Olive oil for brushing and drizzling
• 60g hard cheese (optional) something like parmesan or gruyere but strong cheddar is fine
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
Very thick Greek yoghurt to serve
Fry the rice, onions, allspice and garlic in olive oil until the onions are transparent. Add a very small cup of water (150ml) and boil until the rice absorbs the water but is not quite cooked through. Now add the lentils.
Trim the bases of the tomatoes so they sit flat on the work surface. Slice off the top of the tomatoes and reserve (this will serve as the ‘lid’ for the stuffed tomatoes).
With a spoon, scoop out the pulp and juices of the tomatoes into a bowl. Discard any woody bits which can occur in really big tomatoes.
Add this pulp to the rice mixture
Mix all of the remaining stuffed tomato ingredients, except the cheese if you are using together in a bowl until well combined.
Season the insides of the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Divide the stuffing mix among the tomatoes, pressing it in lightly. Sprinkle over the cheese if you are using. Top each stuffed tomato with the reserved tomato ‘lids’.
Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil (I usually put some baling paper or foil in to stop them caramelizing onto the baking dish directly) then place the tomatoes on top.
Drizzle with some more olive oil and cook in the oven for 25 minutes at 180C, or until the tomatoes are tender and the stuffing is cooked through. Its important the tomatoes are really cooked and roasted.
Improvs and Ideas
A myriad of spices and ideas can apply – I have recipes for stuffed tomatoes baked in tomato sauce, Indian spices, an Italian version, a Turkish version, a Persian version and a classic French version with pork meat….