The long awaited day has at last arrived. The tomatoes that I purchased this morning taste of tomato rather than water. It is a moment that I relish each summer and my celebration today will be for the coeur de boeuf rather than the tearing down of Marianne’s blouse as the mob tore down the walls of the Bastille, which, if it achieved nothing else, predated the first topless beach in St Tropez by 150 years, give or take a decade, and may well have inspired Rudi Geinrich. I have also noticed that in some imagery Marianne appears to be wearing a ripe, red tomato on her head which shows the French compulsion to eat well, even when they are revolting, whilst confirming that Marianne had wisely gone shopping for the first good tomatoes of the season even though she had a pressing engagement involving the freeing of the downtrodden later in the day. History has shown that revolution must be the least successful of all political shifts. France remains a country run by the rich and privileged few and although America claims to be the land of the Free it lives by the maxim of everybody having a price which precludes the thought of anyone, let alone lunch, being free. Leaving revolution to the revolting it should be noted that we have not yet arrived at the tomato season in its full pomp but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end but it is certainly the end of the beginning .
Big, fresh, sexy tomatoes are unquestionably summer food. Being so full of their own flavour they need very little addition, if any, but conversely relish so many: well considered combination of ingredients such as anchovies, olives, breadcrumbs,parsley, Parmesan, goat cheese, olive oil and garlic raise the already delectable to the sublime. For some reason I can’t attribute the following recipe to any single person and, on reflection, it’s not so much a recipe as an instinctive treatment of this seductive fruit.The nomenclature “beef heart” becomes evident on cutting one them in half: the open face of the tomato bears little resemblance to a fruit or vegetable, rather a chunk of blood red meat. Once cut in half, dig out a chunk of the soft flesh so that a hollow is left in each half of the tomato. Prepare a stuffing of fresh breadcrumbs and herbs: I strip the crust from yesterday’s baguette and crumble the bread into the Magimix with the addition of chopped flat parsley, grated parmesan, the chopped tomato that I previously removed, seasoning and some olive oil to lubricate the mixture. Process to oily breadcrumbs, stuff the tomatoes to overflowing and put them in an iron pan which, at a later point, will be going into the oven. I start the softening of the tomatoes on the hob and, when the good smells start emanating from the pan, I put the pan in a hot oven for about 45 minutes or until everything feels right. If the breadcrumbs start to burn, put some silver foil over them and carry on cooking. This simple dish is a revelation only needing good bread and a well dressed salad to make a perfect supper….several glasses of wine are optional to some but essential to me.