In love with tomatoes
Summer is gone and autumn has slowly but surely crept up on us. Crisp mornings and warm sunny afternoons on good days, rain and cold winds on bad days…the weather is certainly changing! Same in the galley, where I am still trying to use up the various ingredients garnered during our world cruise: jars of condiments, tins of beans and preserved vegetables…all adding spice and excitement to our dinners. But nothing beats the flavour of fresh ingredients and in the last few weeks I have been obsessed with tomatoes. It actually started months ago, when we arrived in Cairns and I stumbled upon Phil Pena’s Happy Tomato’s stall at Rusty’s Markets. Phil grows all sorts of vegetables on his Mareeba farm, over 30 different lines he told me, including heirloom tomatoes. They’re the ones I fell in love with: big hearty ones, dainty cherry ones, yellow, red,…perfect in a simple salad !
Nothing tasted the same afterwards, the supermarket varieties didn’t come close. Then last month, one of our “land” neighbours in Sydney, Steve, a keen gardener, texted me “ We’ve got fresh tomatoes coming out of our ears. Would you like some?” 15 minutes later I scored bags of bush ( well garden really, this is Sydney after all) ripened tomatoes, in all shapes and sizes, not as perfect looking as the supermarket ones, but certainly smelling and tasting a 1000% better.
These red treasures have been turned into bruschetta toppings,
Roasted for sauces,
thrown into salads (on their own or mixed with other things),
but my favourite way was stuffed with some sausage meat, baked and served over rice. Simple and delicious, it can be served warm or cold.
I came up with this version one day, when faced with over ripe tomatoes I didn’t want to turn into a sauce again! One request from my kids was for this dish to include meat (they are reluctant vegetarians) which I had a short supply of: 2 garlic pork sausages, left over from a previous barbeque. Further rummaging thru the fridge uncovered half a block of firm tofu, left over from some chinese dinner, which I thought would add bulk to the meat filling. The beauty of using sausage meat is that the mixture is already seasoned, so there is no need to add extra herbs and spice, the flavour is already there. I did add a bit of shallots and parsley though, for colour.
Serves 8 for lunch, or 4 hungry teenagers!
8 tomatoes, very ripe
2 thick herb and garlic pork sausages, uncooked (about 250g)
250g firm tofu, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
1 cup grated cheese
1 tbsp oilive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 200 deg C.
- Slice 1/3 of the top of tomatoes to make a hat. Scoop out the flesh and juices from the tomatoes into a bowl and set aside. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a rack so they “drip dry”.
- Cut off the sausage casings to extract the sausage meat. In a large bowl, mix the sausage meat , tofu and spring onions.
- Divide the mixture between the tomatoes, sprinkle with grated cheese and top each with a tomato hat. Brush tomatoes with olive oil.
- Bake in oven for approx. 25 minutes.
- Serve with tomato rice (recipe follows) and some gravy is desired. Enjoy!
Here is an example of my “no-waste” philosophy in cooking, somehow necessary while cruising. This recipe makes use of the flesh and juice scooped earlier out of the tomatoes.
1 tbsp olive oil
Flesh and juice from 8 tomatoes, scooped out
1 cup rice
2 cups water
- In a pot, heat up olive oil, add tomato flesh and juice, breaking up the flesh with a wooden spoon.
- Add rice and water, stir, cover and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat right down and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.