Stuffed tomatoes with rosemary potatoes
I stumbled across Rachel Eats one Sunday morning and it was one of those 'Clear the next hour and get me a great cup of coffee' moments - at least in my head. Her writing, her recipes, her outlook, I'm in love with it all. This recipe started in motion from one of Rachel's- and I'd wanted to try stuffing tomatoes since going vegan.
Having spent 22 years as a vegetarian, stuffed-any-type-of--vegetable is not a concept I'm in a rush to reinvent. Along with the nut loaf, it's probably time to leave them be for a decade or so. But stuffed tomatoes, for me at least, hold a totally different kind of appeal- their insides are edible and get added to the stuffing, the walls of the tomato are fleshier than peppers so can take on the juices of the stuffing and flavour the rice, and they stand up by themselves, none of this awkward, deconstruct-your-dinner nonsense.
But before I get on with the recipe, I should note the final swing of inspiration came from my best mate Amelie, who followed Rachel's recipe first and made us all such a delicious dinner I was spurred on to try for myself. She added the rosemary potatoes that I included here, so once again, merci beaucoup Amelie!
A note on the stuffing- I chose to use paella rice for stuffing my tomatoes- where risotto arborio gives out liquid and makes everything else creamy, paella rice typically soaks up liquid and is left to do it's thing, instead of being stirred constantly. As you want to keep the insides of the tomatoes pretty dry so they can stay whole, I chose to go with paella rice, although arborio or just plain might suit your tastes better.
Oh, and a note on the cooking- I made probably double the amount of rice needed to stuff the tomatoes, so the other half lined the tin they were roasted in, so no cooking juices or flavours get lost, and there's plenty of rice to eat, as medium-sized tomatoes like I used don't allow for much filling.
Makes enough for 4
For the tomatoes
2 onions, chopped small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped small
Handful of basil, torn into shreds
3 tbsp capers
4 tbsp chopped olives
250g Calasparra rice, or your preferred rice
Salt and pepper
1 cup water during cooking
For the potatoes
1kg potatoes, peeled
Salt and pepper
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
As it's good to let the stuffing flavours mix for as long as possible, I would start by adding the onions, garlic, basil, capers, olives, about 100 ml of olive oil, rice and salt and pepper to a large bowl, and setting aside.
Next, carefully cut the tops off the tomatoes, making sure the hole is big enough to get all the filling out. With a teaspoon, carve out the flesh and seeds, and add them to the stuffing bowl and mix in. Rachel's recipe suggests blending the tomato mixture, but I liked it with chunky pieces of tomato, and the flavours will all mix together in any case.
While the stuffing is resting, you can prepare the potatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and chop the peeled potatoes in to small cubes. In an oven-proof dish, add in the potatoes with a good few glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper and mix together. Then add in the rosemary and once the oven is hot enough, place on a centre tray and cook for about 40-50 minutes.
Once the potatoes have gone in, get the tomatoes ready to bake as these will take a similar amount of time. First, fill the tomatoes with the filling. Then coat an oven-proof dish with some olive oil and pack in a layer of stuffing. Then place the filled tomatoes in the dish, and pack the rest of the filling around them. As well as containing all the flavour, I also find this a great way to make sure all the tomatoes stay upright and don't collapse as they cook.
Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes - check on the rice after about 20 minutes, and then add in up to a cup of water to the rice and tomatoes, if you think the rice needs it. In my own experience, this stops the rice drying out and burning, and keeps everything cooking evenly for the last 15-20 minutes.
Turn the potatoes as you go along, making sure they cook evenly on all sides.
The best thing about this recipe is it only tastes better the longer you leave it. So once everything is cooked, take it out the oven and plate up straight away, but make sure you leave enough for leftovers, because your tomorrow-you will be well chuffed.
I added kale and a glass of wine to mine that night- the next day, a fire escape by the side of my office. Both worked well.