These great big, juicy beef tomatoes were just crying out to be stuffed with something delicious, and as we're firmly in April shower season rather than bright and sunny springtime, I went for a comforting and slightly boozy combination of dry cider and plump pearl barley, with a parsley & pine nut crust.
The recipe is similar to my Kale & Squash Pearl Barley Risotto, but stuffing it into oversized tomatoes then topping with crunchy parsley and pine nut breadcrumbs makes this into a bit more of a 'showstopper' main course for friends and family.
Scoop out as much of the tomato flesh and seeds as possible, so that you can cram lots of the pearl barley into every nook and cranny. Don't throw the innards away - they would make a great addition to soup, or even the base of a rich, tomato-ey gravy to serve with these stuffed lovelies.
I served mine on a little pile of mashed potato with some veggie gravy, but they would be just as good with a crisp, green salad on a warmer day or as a light lunch or starter.
Cider & Barley Stuffed Tomatoes
- 6 very large tomatoes (sometimes called 'beef' tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 250 g pearl barley
- 500 ml dry cider
- handful spinach finely chopped
- bunch parsley finely chopped
- 1 slice bread
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- Slice the top off the tomatoes, and scoop them out carefully with a spoon. (It is helpful to start by slicing around the inside of the flesh with a sharp knife, then make a deep cross in the flesh, and continue with a spoon). Place the empty tomatoes into a baking tray, and save the flesh and seeds for soup!
- In a large saucepan or casserole dish, heat the oil and gently fry the onion for 2 minutes, then add the celery, carrot and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes until softened.
- Add the pearl barley, let it fry gently for 2 minutes, then pour in enough cider to cover. Cook at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and adding a little more cider every few minutes until the barley is just cooked but still with a little bite to it. (If you run out of cider but the barley is still not quite cooked, just add a little water instead). Taste, and season well with salt and pepper, then stir through the spinach and half of the parsley, and set aside to cool.
- Toast the bread, then blitz it with the remaining parsley and pine nuts in a food processor or mini chopper, (or else chop very finely by hand).
- Spoon the barley mixture into the tomatoes, squeezing in as much as you can, then top with a generous pile of breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, and serve immediately.
If you like the look of these, you might also like: