This week is British Tomato Week, timed to coincide with the arrival of fresh British greenhouse tomatoes in the nation’s supermarkets, farm shops, and farmer’s markets. If there’s any food to convince you to “buy local”, then tomatoes are it (just buy a tomato during the winter months if you don’t believe me). So for those of us in Blighty who’ve been forgoing our tomato fixation during the long winter, it’s time to celebrate the return of this marvellous Mediterranean veg and get cooking with tomatoes that have been grown on our home turf.
Where to begin? There are a few staples you could go for: tomato soup, tomato salsa, or even straight up sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil. Great British Chefs has a fantastic collection of tomato recipes (you really can’t go wrong with gazpacho).
For me, the ultimate way to celebrate tomatoes is with this recipe for Tomates Farcies, a stuffed tomato dish that originates from Southern France and which I learned on a cookery holiday with Demuths Cookery School. It’s truly a celebration dish, perfect for serving a crowd. The key is, of course, to use the ripest, tastiest tomatoes you can find. The filling is based on rice, but you can adapt the veggies to suit what you have to hand.
Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)
Recipe courtesy of Demuths Cookery School
These are vegan without the cheese.
- 200g Camargue red rice (or whatever red rice you have on hand)
- 250ml white wine
- 750ml hot vegetable stock
- A few sprigs of bay, rosemary, thyme and oregano (or a pinch each of dried)
- 6 ripe but firm large tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 350g finely chopped vegetables (red pepper, mushrooms, leek, carrot, kale, whatever you have around)
- 4 tbsps olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 3 tbsps chopped fresh basil
- handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 100g Parmesan, or similar cheese, grated (optional)
- salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
- Cook the rice in a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, the glass of wine and herbs. Stir occasionally and simmer until just cooked through, which takes about 15 minutes for red rice, make sure the rice isn’t over cooked as it is cooked again inside the tomatoes. Drain. Set the rice aside.
- Cut a thick slice off the top of each tomato; leaving on the stalk if you can and reserve the tomato tops. Cut and scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each tomato into a small saucepan. Simmer the tomato pulp for 15 minutes and then strain through a sieve, reserving the pulp and discarding the seeds.
- Oil the bottom of a baking dish, big enough to fit the tomatoes snugly, with 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.
- To make the filling. In a frying pan fry the onion gently in the remainder of the olive oil, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute before adding the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Gently fry for five minutes and then add the strained tomato pup. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the parsley, some of the cheese and rice (add as much so that the rice to veggie ratio is just as you like – you might have some rice leftover). Combine well. Add the tomato juice to achieve a moist filling. Taste and season well.
- Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle leftover stuffing on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle entire dish with olive oil and the remaining cheese. Place the reserved tomato slices on top the tomatoes. Bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes.