Country food at its best: beefsteak tomatoes stuffed with aubergine and mozzarella
Here at Country Homes & Interiors the talk this week is of tomato gluts. Those with bumper crops and big larders are talking of batch cooking chutneys and sauces for winter (shhhh). The real stars of the show for me though are the big boys: I like stuffing and roasting beefsteaks, and serving them with big chunks off a rustic seeded loaf. This recipe is a classic and serves 6…
6 beef tomatoes, ripe but firm
9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 handfuls basil leaves
2–3 tbsp plain flour, for dredging
400g small aubergines, trimmed, thinly sliced into rounds
2 free range eggs, beaten with a large pinch salt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Using a sharp knife, slice the tops off the tomatoes, about a quarter of the way down, to make lids. With a small spoon, remove the seeds and pulp inside the tomatoes and reserve. Place the hollowed-out tomatoes on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Add a pinch of salt to the cavity of each, then turn the tomatoes upside down and set aside for 10–15 minutes to allow moisture to escape.
2 Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in a pan over a high heat. Fry the onion for 3–4 minutes until softened, then add the reserved tomato pulp and half the basil leaves and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, then half cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated and the mixture has thickened. Check and stir from time to time to prevent from burning.
3 Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in a separate pan over a medium–high heat. While the oil is heating up, sprinkle the flour onto a plate and dredge the aubergine rounds in it, shaking off any excess. When the oil is hot, dip each round into the beaten egg. Add the coated aubergine to the hot oil, in batches if necessary, and fry for 3–4 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle a little salt over.
4 To assemble, begin with a slice of aubergine, then top with a spoonful of tomato sauce, followed by a basil leaf, then a slice of mozzarella. Repeat the layers until the tomato cavities are full and all the ingredients used up. (Reserve any leftover basil leaves for the garnish.) Put the lid on each tomato and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle over a little of the remaining olive oil.
4 Bake the stuffed tomatoes in the oven for about 25 minutes or until softened and the cheese has melted. To serve, garnish with the remaining basil leaves, then drizzle over the remaining extra virgin olive oil and season again to taste.
* Recipe by Gennaro Contaldo, taken from the new Saturday Kitchen Cooking Bible (£20, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, orionbooks.co.uk)
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