Slow Roasted Tomato Recipe
I lost the web-link in a laptop upgrade and I cannot for the life of me re-construct the original search term. I have tried so hard to find him again, if anyone reads this and you know who I am talking about, I would really love to publicise his experiments on roasting tomatoes. And send him furtive invitations to come round when my husband’s not home. Only joking! (Well, I think I am…)
This guy loved slow roast tomatoes. That’s such an understatement I can’t believe I even wrote that. The dish consumed his life, consumed it to such an extent that he spent weeks and months experimenting, perhaps even dedicated a portion of his adult existence to understanding the slow roast tomato. He tinkered with hundreds of varieties, variables and permutations. I am guessing in real life he was a re-trenched science geek, I have never come across anything like that blog then or since.
But, I have reasonable recall. He was still fiddling and testing when I was reading his blog, and was coming to the conclusion that time—long, long time, and at very low temperature, was the key. Well, I don’t have the kind of time this guy had e.g. to wait somewhere between nine and twelve hours checking a dish in the oven. So, I picked one of his middle-ground, middle-range experiments and made that instead.
Try it for yourself, that’s all I can say. Some might say it was better than sex. Not me, no, really, it’s only cooking, no food can make you feel that good, it’s not decent. But once you make this dish, can you even imagine how scared I am to even attempt one of his later, improved versions?
1 Kg Tomatoes
Dessertspoon of Olive Oil to coat
1 Teaspoon of Dried Herbs (and in my own order of preference): Herbes de Provence, Basil, Thyme or Mixed Herbs
½ Teaspoon of Sugar
Here is another amazing thing. This works even with life’s crap tomatoes. Yup, those solid, tasteless, cheap and scentless, genetically modified and stupefied by radiation supermarket tomatoes are totally fine. Such “life-sucks” tomatoes are, by this recipe, transfigured into what Mother Nature probably intended them to be. It is a wonder.
Find a shallow roasting tray, shallow casserole dish or even a foil tray would do it. Size is important, because you need to cram in the tomatoes, side by side, cheek by jowl. So, however many you have, it seems to be better to cook fewer in a smaller dish than spread them out widely on a larger tray, I think it is because proximity means they take longer to dry out and therefore the flavour is more concentrated.
Wash, take out any stalks and cut the tomatoes in half vertically from the stalk end down. Place them in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle over some olive oil, enough to coat each tomato without drowning them, ie without creating a puddle of excess oil in the bottom of the bowl.
Assuming you are making a family, regular tray of say, a kilo or a couple of pounds of mid-sized tomatoes, then add a teaspoon of dried herbs of your choice, a few grinds of salt and, if your are me, four or five grinds of black pepper. Get your hands in there and mix it all round so everything is evenly coated.
Put the tomatoes in your chosen dish cut side up, and sprinkle sparingly with some regular granulated sugar or Demerara sugar if you have this, probably not more than a rounded teaspoon is enough for a kilo of tomatoes. Place in the oven. There is no need to pre-heat, just make sure the oven temperature is down low, ie at about 100-150 degrees Celsius.
Now, go do something else, because they can take around four hours in there slowly turning into heaven.
And I do apologise, but this is the really irritating bit of the recipe. Different varieties of tomatoes, grown by different firms in different locations have variable moisture content. It will take longer for a big fat juicy tomato to dry out than a woolly rubbish small tomato. So, keep checking every hour or so, and then maybe check on the half hour. Those rubbish, life’s short-changed me tomatoes are likely to take less time than juicy, I grew them myself and watered them constantly by hand tomatoes. Slight charring on the top, and the dish is definitely done, probably half an hour before to be honest. Lots of black on top, they are more than done, and yet they will still taste good. Small, black charred lumps, shame on you.
And, I hear you ask, so, how can this be a relaxed cook’s recipe? Well, if I am around all day anyway, and much of the time probably loading and unloading laundry and generally “kitchening” it a bit, then checking on tomatoes is not really a chore. And when that delicious smell starts wafting through the house, I can promise you will be drawn very frequently to the oven door without even thinking about it.
If they are cooked before you need them, they can be eaten cold, lukewarm, or just warmed through a bit in the oven again, to serve alongside a main course. And that’s easy.
I serve this as a side dish or a garnish to a main course (depending on how many I have managed to wolf down myself). A kilo will serve up to 4 as a side dish, and I cooked this weekend’s batch for 4 hours, and they could easily have been in there for another couple of hours, they were incredibly flavoursome and still very juicy. They can be served as an hors d’oeuvres with nice bread or even better, a lovely bruschetta topping, and they keep in the fridge for a couple of days too. With feta cheese, slow roasted tomatoes are a lovely salad dish. They can be preserved in oil for ages. This is all your choice, but what I can say is they don’t last very long in our house.