I came across this recipe, written by chef and cookbook writer, Edna Lewis in a back issue of Gourmet magazine.
Edna was among the first African American women from the south to write a cookbook that did not hide the author’s true name, gender or race. Born in Freetown, Virginia in 1916, she lived with her family in a small community of emancipated slaves that her grandfather helped to create. Edna wrote, lectured and cooked prolifically right up until her death in 20016. She received various awards and honours, including the James Beard Living Legend Award in 1999, and was named ‘Grande Dame’ by Les Dames d’Escoffier international in 1999.
I chose this recipe to share with you because right now, tomatoes are super seasonal. As with any dish that uses limited ingredients, the trick is to source as well as you can – the best tomatoes, the freshest thyme, sourdough bread and good butter. And then, my friends, you have a thing of beauty, comfort and joy.
We ate this dish at room temperature, alongside chicken in fennel and a green salad. Plus a crisp glass of cold, white wine.
2 cans of the best chopped tomatoes
450g tomatoes on the vine, diced
150g butter, room temperature – you may find you need more..
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/8th tsp ground allspice
1/8th tsp ground cloves
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp light brown sugar
8 slices good, day old bread
Set your oven to 200c and butter a medium sized baking dish.
Cook the onions in 50g of the butter on a low heat with seasoning and lid on, for around 10 minutes until sweet, golden and translucent.
Meanwhile, drain one of the cans of tomatoes and tip the contents into a bowl. Add the remaining can of tomatoes plus the diced fresh tomatoes. Set to one side.
Add the garlic and spices to the onions and continue to cook for a minute or so.
Add the tomatoes, fresh thyme and sugar, and season well.
Simmer briskly, uncovered over a low heat, for around 20 minutes, until thick. Taste and season again, if needs.
Meanwhile, butter the bread on both sides, and then slice in half.
Once the tomato mixture is ready, transfer to the baking dish and overlap with the bread, as you would with a bread and butter pudding.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Just as good eating, the following day.