from one generation to the next
There was a time when the only hope you had of getting a real tomato in Australia was to grow your own. I’m talking about tomatoes grown in a garden bed and ripened naturally by the sun, tomatoes bursting with sweet luscious juicy flavour.
I’m disappointed I’m unable to grow tomatoes on my balcony, I did try but there’s just not enough sun, so I have to rely on commercial producers. The growers who sell at Farmers Market have the closest thing to home grown but my local greengrocer also occasionally has heritage tomato varieties grown with tender loving care, real tomatoes that are grooved and misshapen and that smell and taste like tomatoes did before they became an industrialised commodity.
For my last supper I’d choose sliced fresh late summer tomato that’s warm from the sun, seasoned with a flake or two of sea salt, a grinding of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. If you piled them on top of a slice of crusty sourdough bread to absorb the juices, I’d die a happy woman.
When tomatoes are in their prime, I also enjoy them stuffed with rice to trap both the juices and flavour, a few salty bits to intensify the savoury tomatoey flavours, some herbs and added pine nuts for crunch. They make a delicious meal with a side salad.
If you’re stuffing tomatoes to bake for the first time you need to be aware that they need to be well seasoned. Don’t stint on adding sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to the filling or your tomatoes will end up bland. Leave the rice a little undercooked too, cook for just 10 mins as it will cook some more in the oven which leads to a warning, don’t overstuff the tomatoes when you fill them as you risk the skins splitting as the filling cooks and expands in the oven.
Stuffed tomatoes are a little bit fiddly to prepare, but it’s a dish you’ll make just a couple of times each season when tomatoes are at their prime, and I think well worth the effort.
Stuffed Sweet Summer Tomatoes for 4 large tomatoes
4 large ripe sweet tomatoes with firm skins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cooked rice
50g feta cheese crumbled
1/4 cup tightly squeezed cooked spinach, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
40g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Wash the tomatoes then slice a lid from the top. Set the tops aside.
Use a sharp spoon to scoop out the seeds and flesh, but don’t remove the flesh against the skin.
Separate the flesh from the seeds and juice.
Strain the seeds from the juice and discard the seeds. Set the juice aside.
Chop the flesh roughly.
Mix together all the stuffing ingredients including the chopped tomato flesh.
Rub the outside of each tomato with olive oil.
Fill the tomatoes generously with the stuffing but don’t stuff them too tightly.
Place the filled tomatoes into a greased baking dish and spoon the reserved tomato juice over the top.
Place the lids on top, drizzle over a little olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes .
Serve hot or warm with a crisp green salad.