nigel’s top ten – roast tomatoes with crumbs and thyme

david often jokes about the simplicity of nigel slater’s approach to food – “...nothing quite matches picking a tomato and eating an apple. i do this twice today. the first time at about 9:30; the second just before lunch when i bring a large and knobbly costoluto fiorentino inside and slice it thinly. no pepper, no oil, a very little salt. no bread either, just a great, fat, gloriously ripe tomato. if only lunch could always be as simple as this”* and so i was amused to read the descriptor that accompanied this recipe, where nigel explains it is a simple dish which he eats weekly in the summer.

so, how did i get on?

it is indeed a simple recipe – i made the breadcrumb mix (crumbs, herbs, anchovy, garlic and olive oil) in advance and just spooned it over the halved when we were ready to eat. the result was delicious, despite the fact that my tomatoes weren’t particularly flavoursome when eaten raw – the crumbs had a richness which emphasised the tomato flavour, which in itself was helped by being roasted to concentrate things.

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of nigel’s top ten? yes, if only to make david laugh by proposing a supper of roasted tomatos with crumbs!

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes – they were delicious, quick and easy and tasted good the next day as part of a salady lunch. i think it’s incredibly flexible too - we ate it with chicken, it would be good with fish or just with a green salad and i think you could also crush and toss the tomatoes with pasta.

* september 3 entry in nigel slater's kitchen diaries

nigel slater’s roast tomatoes with crumbs and thyme (june 2009) serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main

tomatoes (large, but not beefsteak) 6

thyme a few bushy sprigs

olive oil

garlic 2 cloves

fresh white breadcrumbs 80g

anchovy fillets 6

set the oven at 180c/gas mark 4. slice the tomatoes in half and lay them cut-side up in a shallow baking dish or roasting tin. remove the thyme leaves from their stems and put them in a small mixing bowl with 80ml of olive oil. peel and finely crush the garlic cloves and stir into the olive oil with a generous grinding of sea salt and black pepper.

stir the breadcrumbs into the oil with the anchovy fillets, roughly chopped. spoon over the tomatoes and bake for 40 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender and the crumbs lightly crisp.