Baked tomatoes with saffron, bulgur & barberries

Baked tomatoes with saffron, bulgur & barberries

New Feast
Alan Benson

This is based on a simple meal that Greg’s mum used to make with a mix of different-sized tomatoes from the garden. It’s best made in full summer, when tomatoes are ripe and flavourful but if you don’t grow your own, the best place to find a larger variety tomato for stuffing will be farm stores or farmers’ markets. You should be able to find large beefsteak and oxheart varieties fairly easily and heritage varieties (such as the marmande) are increasingly widely available. At all costs, avoid the watery ones sold as ‘slicing’ tomatoes in some supermarkets.


Quantity Ingredient
200g small–medium vine ripened tomatoes
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon turkish red chilli flakes
80ml vegetable stock
15 saffron threads
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
greek-style yoghurt, to serve

Bulgur stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
120g medium–coarse bulgur wheat
40ml olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons barberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons pistachio slivers
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the stuffing, soak the bulgur wheat in boiling water for 20 minutes then tip into a sieve to drain. Use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can then set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the shallots, garlic, barberries and spices and sauté for a few minutes until the shallots soften. Add the bulgur wheat and pistachios and season with the salt and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside until ready to cook the tomatoes. It will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to 12 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  4. Arrange the vine-ripened tomatoes in a roasting tin. Drizzle on half the oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 10 minutes, or until the skins split. Peel away and discard the skins (or save for making stock). Add the shallots, chilli flakes, stock and saffron to the pan.
  5. Working from the stalk end, carefully slice out the cores from the large tomatoes, then scoop out as much of the flesh as you can with a melon baller or teaspoon. With true ‘stuffing’ varieties, you’ll find that the seeds are all clustered close to the centre, with a fair amount of space around them, making it easy to scoop them out. Chop the flesh finely and mix it into the bulgur stuffing mixture. Divide the stuffing evenly between the tomatoes, packing it in tightly.
  6. Sit the tomatoes on top of the vegetables in the roasting tin. Cover the tin with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot from the oven, or at room temperature, with Greek-style yoghurt.


  • In the winter, most large varieties of tomato have rather watery, tasteless flesh. We’d suggest discarding this, as it adds almost nothing in terms of flavour. Instead, double the amount of vine-ripened tomatoes and, after roasting and peeling, remove half the amount from the tin, chop them evenly and add this to the stuffing mix.

    Barberries are available from Persian stores or some Middle Eastern stores. If you can’t find them, use dried cranberries or cherries.
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