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Kofte, salad and a savoury ricotta bake: Claire Thomson’s tomato recipes

Summer’s a time for tomato with everything: try them in a super-savoury ricotta bread-and-butter pudding, stuffed with meatballs, and in a salad with peaches, grapes and feta

Whole tomato kofte

I made these during a live cook-along session with Ulrika Jonsson, home-cook champion (among many other wonderful things) and my muse at the other end of the camera. The session was great fun, both of us with a glass in hand, while the rain lashed down here in Bristol and one or other of my children filmed me at the barbecue holding an umbrella (to no avail: I got soaked). Ulrika looked far more cool and stylish, with her dog and youngest daughter as company. I’m aware that sometimes I can cook at such speed (it’s the chef in me) that people struggle to keep up, but Ulrika kept pace and the night was a riot, albeit a virtual one, such was “the thing” in the summer of 2020.

Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4

50g coarse bulgur wheat
16 good tomatoes
, halved horizontally
500g lamb mince
½ onion, very finely diced
30g butter
4 garlic cloves
, peeled, 3 thinly sliced, 1 cut in half
200g passata, or canned chopped tomatoes
Salt and 
black pepper

For the chopped salad
½–1 cucumber, finely diced
The seeds of 1 pomegranate
½–1 large red or green pepper, stalk, seeds and pith removed and discarded, flesh finely diced
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley or mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Juice of ½ lemon

To serve
Flatbreads, such as pide, lavash or pita
150g full-fat natural yoghurt, seasoned with a good pinch of salt
Pickles
½ lemon
, cut into wedges
Chilli flakes, preferably aleppo or urfa, for sprinkling
Ground sumac, for sprinkling

Tip the bulgur into a pan of salted water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and leave to cool in the colander.

Scoop out the flesh and seeds of the halved tomatoes, reserving them both, along with any juices. Season the cavities with salt and turn them cavity downwards on a plate, to catch any remaining juice.

Tip the mince, cooled bulgur, onion, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater and mix on high speed for about two minutes, until sticky and cohesive (or mix it by hand).

Melt the butter in a saucepan on a moderate heat. Add the garlic and fry for two minutes, until fragrant. Add the passata and the juices from the tomatoes, season and simmer for at least 15–20 minutes, until thick, then put to one side.

Heat the grill to high and heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Pour the tomato sauce into a round, 25cm baking dish (or similar).

Divide and shape the meat mix into 16 equal, ping-pong-sized balls. Nestle one ball into a scooped-out tomato half and top with the other scooped-out half, thereby enveloping the ball. Repeat with the remaining meatballs and tomato halves, then arrange snugly side by side in the dish.

Grill for three to five minutes, until the tomatoes start to blister and blacken, then bake for eight to 10 minutes – a little pink is fine for the meat, but do cook it to your liking. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five or so minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the chopped salad ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.

To serve, briefly heat the flatbreads under the grill, then top with the stuffed tomatoes and chopped salad, along with the seasoned yoghurt, pickles and lemon wedges, with chilli flakes and sumac to sprinkle.

Tomatoes with peaches, grapes, feta and oregano

Claire Thomson’s peach and tomato feta salad

Choose multi-coloured tomatoes, as well as yellow- or white-fleshed peaches, and purple, black or green grapes. Dice the fruit so it’s all roughly uniform in size, and be sure to taste and dress the salad accordingly. Use soft goat’s cheese, if you prefer; roquefort or mozzarella would also work beautifully here. The sweet, juicy fruits flatter the salty cheese and olives, which is crucial for the balance in this dish.

Prep 15 min
Macerate 10 min
Serves 4

4 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp red- or white-wine vinegar
, or cider vinegar
½ small red onion (or 1 shallot), peeled and very thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
2 peaches
, stoned and chopped into 2–3cm dice
600g tomatoes (a mixture of colours and sizes, ideally), cut into 2–3cm pieces
200g red grapes, halved
½ small bunch fresh oregano (or marjoram), leaves picked
50g feta, crumbled
50g kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

Put the peaches, tomatoes and grapes in a large serving bowl. Add the oregano, feta and olives, spoon over the dressing and serve immediately.

Tomato bread-and-butter pudding with ricotta and mustard

Claire Thomson’s tomato bread-and-butter pudding.

If daubing day-old focaccia with mustard butter on one side and thick clouds of ricotta on the other, before baking it with an egg custard with cherry tomatoes and sage sounds up your street, then this is the recipe for you. Serve it warm, not piping hot, so the flavours fuse and the various components settle and slump all together as one. A green salad, dressed with a light vinaigrette, or steamed vegetables (green beans would be nice) make a fine serving suggestion to compensate for all the dairy.

Prep 15 min
Soak 15 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

2 tbsp dijon mustard, plus extra to serve
60g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g day-old focaccia or baguette, thinly sliced
250g ricotta
350ml whole milk
300ml double cream
About 8 sage leaves
, chopped, or ½ small bunch of chives, thyme or oregano, picked and finely chopped
5 eggs, beaten
Salt and black pepper
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
80g cheddar, gruyere or comte, coarsely grated

Heat the oven to 165C (145C fan)/320F/gas 2¾ and butter a 25cm baking dish. In a bowl, beat the mustard and butter. Butter the bread slices on one side with the mustard butter, then spread the other side with a layer of ricotta. Arrange the bread buttered side up in overlapping rows to fill the baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk the milk, cream, herbs and eggs, and season with plenty of pepper and a good pinch or two of salt. Pour over the bread and leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Scatter the tomatoes evenly on top, sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 40–45 minutes, until the custard is set, but still a bit wobbly in the centre, the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling.

Leave to rest for 10–15 minutes and serve with extra dijon on the side, if you like.

  • Recipes extracted from Tomato: 80 Recipes Celebrating the Extraordinary Tomato, by Claire Thomson, published by Quadrille on 26 June at £22, and created with Isle of Wight tomatoes. To order a copy for £19.14, go to guardianbookshop.com

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