Bee Wilson’s take on a classic Eliza Acton recipe from 1845
This recipe was inspired by my Forgotten kitchen article on the history of stuffed tomatoes.
Stuffed tomato recipes can be wasteful. It feels sad to discard all the seeds, where most of the flavour is. So I took my lead from the cooks who use the tomato pulp as part of the filling. Another problem is that there is always far too much stuffing to fit back into the tomato, but this is easily solved—if you don’t care too much about neatness—by strewing the remaining stuffing around the tomatoes in the dish.
The most common version of stuffed tomatoes I found in Victorian books involved bacon or ham along with the breadcrumbs. But I was inspired by Eliza Acton’s addition to swap all the meat for mushrooms. This stuffing is redolent of duxelles, that soothing French mixture of mushrooms, shallots and herbs. Not sharing Acton’s Victorian antipathy to garlic, I daringly added two cloves.
10 medium tomatoes (about 750g)
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
100g white bread
Preheat the oven to 200C. Wash the tomatoes and cut the top off each. Carefully scoop out the seeds with a spoon, reserving them in a bowl.
Melt the butter in a wide pan and soften the onion for 5 mins. Meanwhile, take the mushrooms, garlic, and parsley and whizz them to a greenish-grey rubble in a food processor (or if you have no food processor, mince them as finely as you can). Add to the onions and continue to stew in the butter for 5 mins more.
Put the bread into the empty food processor and whizz to crumbs (or chop fine by hand). Add to the onion-mushroom mixture and season well with salt and cayenne pepper. Chop the leftover tomato lids and the seeds leaving most of the juice behind in the bowl. Add this tomato pulp to the stuffing in the pan and check the seasoning again.
Stuff the mixture carefully into the tomato shells, arranged in a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 20 mins until browned and melting but not collapsed. These are best eaten warm or at room temperature. Serve as a light dinner with green salad and bread
Recipe & images: Bee Wilson