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Tomatoes are generally rubbish through three quarters of the year in the non-Mediterranean part of Europe. Tasteless and watery, with thick skins and not much flavour. Vine-ripened, cherry, even organic are really not worth the bother or the price – it makes you long for the times when produce wasn’t available out of its season.
The thing to do to improve the flavour exponentially is to roast them for a long time at low temperature, in plenty of oil. Confit, in a word. You can confit not only duck legs as it happens but pretty much anything; and the purpose may be intensifying the flavour rather than the ultimate tenderisation like with meat.
Sliced or just halved, they will sit happily in a puddle of oil for a couple of hours until the skins become leathery and tinged with caramelisation around the edges. I like to eat them just like that, at room temperature, but you can do a very wonderful snack or appetizer by slapping a disc of all-butter puff pastry over the confit slices. Bake, stand and turn upside down onto a plate – the easiest tomato Tatin.
- 3-4 large tomatoes
- salt and black pepper
- olive oil
- ready rolled puff pastry sheet
- basil or sage leaves (optional)
1. First roast the tomatoes: wash and dry them, then slice thickly across to get at least 3 full slices out of each one. Spread them in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and generously drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven preheated to 160C/300F/gas 3 for about 1 hour, until there’s no juice but just oil in the dish and the tomato slices are slightly scorched around the edges. Cool in the dish for 10-15 minutes.
2. For the tarte you’ll need a smaller pie dish as the tomato slices have shrunk a lot; pick one where your slices will fit snugly. Spoon some of the tomato oil into the dish and transfer the tomato slices in there with a palette knife or a flat slotted spoon. Tear some basil or sage leaves if using and tuck them amongst the slices.
3. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Measure the diameter of the pastry disc you’ll need; it has to cover the tomato slices completely. Find a plate suitable in size and cut a pastry circle around that plate with a sharp knife. Place the pastry on top of the tomatoes and jab a few holes in it with a fork.
4. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes until browned and puffy. Cool it in the dish for at least 15 minutes. Place a serving plate on top of the pastry and invert the tart onto the plate. Serve at room temperature – and it’s even better on the next day, if there’s any left.