Tomates Farcis

Stuffed Tomatoes

Clearly there are as many ways of stuffing a tomato as there are cooks. But the first essential is a good-quality tomato. No problem in France in the summer. But in England unless you grow your own it is best to buy Marmande or beefsteak tomatoes. I include the recipe mainly for the method. But it’s worth bearing in mind that what one aims for, as in all cooking, is an enhancement of fine ingredients, not a disguise due to a confused over-indulgence of additional flavours. Here one is hoping with skill and flair to reveal the tomato-ness of a tomato. So that while not losing the simple charm of the raw fruit, its scent and sweetness, one hopes to add the round fat flavour and the melting quality, exciting yet comforting, of a perfectly baked tomato. When it happens it’s a revelation. Overcooking makes a tomato taste acrid and watery, and something beautiful and unique to the fruit has been stolen by the oven and is lost for ever.

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Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1–2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbstarragon, chervil, parsley, basil, etc. – chopped
  • a few celery leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • salt, milled pepper

Method

Cut a lid from each tomato and scrape out the seeds, membrane and juice. If you wish, discard the seeds and chop the rest. Drain the tomatoes upside down while you prepare the filling.

Heat the oil and cook the shallot and garlic until soft. Add the chopped tomato and cook, stirring, for 5–8 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, celery leaves and almost all the breadcrumbs and egg. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the filling into the tomatoes and sprinkle each with the remaining breadcrumbs. Dribble a little olive oil over each and place the filled tomatoes in an oiled oven dish.

Cook in a moderate oven (Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F) for 25–30 minutes until the filling is cooked, when it will rise out of the tomatoes a little. Serve straight away or leave until cold.

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