Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Lindsey Bareham's roasted tomatoes

I LOVE pasta but never took macaroni and cheese seriously or cared enough to make one until I discovered a cool little cookbook titled: Supper Won't Take Long: Favourite Recipes from the "Evening Standard".

17 years ago, I randomly picked this paperback at the bookstore. I was just really drawn by the cover. I mean look at it! Juicy roasted tomatoes, all glistening red and nestled on top of a generous pesto layer on *gasp* ... is that puff pastry!? YES PLEASE! A few quick reads of the recipes and ingredients was all I needed to buy this book in a flash. It was 1997. Jamie Oliver as The Naked Chef wasn't even a sensation yet. Same for Nigella Lawson. The only British cooks I knew of were an odd duo called The Two Fat Ladies (which were awesome by the way and a real torture to watch on an empty stomach). Needless to say, I had never heard of Lindsey Bareham. I wasn't familiar with British food writing and it's quirky, charming terms. In fact, silly French me assumed she was American. I even thought that maybe The evening Standard was from New York! :)

The more I read though, the more I noticed the subtle differences that clearly made this "European fare". It reminded me of French food, the way my mother cooks and that brought me comfort. I fell in love with the vocabulary, her enthusiasm and seductive descriptions in each intro for each recipe. Her love for seasonal food is very clear in her stories and the recipes are simple enough. I carried that book around everywhere. On road trips, to work and even kept it by my bedside. It's in pieces now but I still love it and use it often. I guess I should get some tape to fix it before I lose a precious page. I tried so many recipes and I can't remember being disappointed. It's easy comfort food without being ordinary and makes pleasing meals for 2 or a family of 4. Lindsey is so casual in her approach that you can't help but feel relax before starting. A bit like when you indulge in a glass of wine just as you start on supper. So yeah, I recommend the book. It cost me $16.99 at the time. Worth every penny I spontaneously spent on it! Including the scotch tape I'm going to buy to repair it.

One of the first recipes I tried is: Onion Macaroni Cheese with Roast Tomatoes.

Great for a picnic. Breadcrumbs were added to this version for contrast.

Now this particular recipe might not sound very European but it still felt delightfully different. Her
description: "...Any fat tubular lengths of pasta will do, or you could use large shells or circular noodles. The cheese sauce is perked up with masses of chives and English mustard, then mixed with buttery strands of soft onion and just-tender chunks of leek. When everything is cooked and mixed together it's eaten as it is, risotto-style, dusted with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sharply dressed tomato salad on the side. However, it's more Monday nightish poured into a shallow baking dish, topped with grated Parmesan and popped into a hot oven until the top turns brown and crusty..."

Is it weird to be charmed by this? Because I really am! Her intro sold me and I made the dish with the side of roasted tomatoes that she later explains in her recipe. It stayed with me and it's on rotation in our house (especially when it gets colder). Great as a picnic too as you can see below.

Happy husband 

Since then I've simplified by skipping the onions and the leeks. They are seriously awesome in there but not always in harmony with children. In the photo above, the mac 'n' cheese is a different one that had to suit that particular day but the one thing I never changed is the roasted tomatoes from her recipe. That addition which is actually a side dish, always, ALWAYS comes with our macaroni and cheese regardless of the version I chose to cook. Our girls don't care for the tomato part yet but Marc and I just can't get enough of that jammy, tangy, red goodness that we get to squish on top of our noodles each time. It's a great contrast to the rich, creamy cheesy sauce and adds extra moisture if on that day, the casserole turned a little dry *ahem* like above. It's a winner! The only other things that could accompany a dish like that is red wine (obviously), a nice green salad and maybe crusty bread to mop the sauces in your plate. :)

Easy to carry in a brownie pan with saran wrap for a picnic take out. 

I'm really here for the roasted tomatoes that come along with her recipe. They rock. Without them, I wouldn't bother posting about this. If they're in season, it will be amazing. If they're not in season (think Canadian grocery stores in winter), this will bring them back to life big time! If they're canned, well, you'll still come up with a decent version. It's the way they melt and jam with the heat, the salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil. Everything just intensifies. Then those juices mingle with the mac 'n' cheese sauce... The tangy with the creamy. A real pleasure. It's a party in your plate really. Sometimes I like to have a simple green salad at the same time so that the dressing gets to mingle too. That's when your bread is a serious tool to mop up all the juices. Not too much though. Just enough to clean the plate. I feel my waistband expanding just writing this! I often simplify and leave out the salad and the bread for mopping but I can't bother to make macaroni and cheese if I don't have those tomatoes to party with. It's that simple and it's been like this for 17 years.

On a side note, those tomatoes are also great with eggs and sausages. Think Hobbit! Also great with crusty bread and butter and a piece of cheese... I bet a roasted chicken wouldn't say no to them either. Anyways! I could go on! Someone shut me up. Try them! Hope you like them.

Roasted tomatoes (to go with any macaroni and cheese)

Adapted from Lindsey Bareham's Supper Won't Take Long: Favourite Recipes from the Evening Standard

4 tomatoes or more
A few pinches of sugar
4 tsp olive oil (I'm guessing here, I figure about 1/2 tsp for each half)
salt and freshly ground black pepper (a generous dose on tomatoes is good here)

dried oregano (if you feel like it)
garlic powder (if you wish)
red pepper flakes (if you dare)

Turn the oven to 400˚f. Wash and cut your tomatoes in half across their circumference. Take the cores out if you wish. Rub top and bottom with olive oil or just drizzle oil over them and rub the excess on their bottom. Do what you feel like, just know that a little extra olive oil is a good thing here! As you do this place them, cut side up, in a tray or pan that can go in a hot oven. I often use a square brownie pan that seems to fit just right. I even used cheap aluminum plates (careful though, juices burn fast in that so a splash of water might be required). Season with salt and pepper. We enjoy a generous dose of freshly ground pepper on tomatoes, it really works. Add a small pinch of sugar on each half. Now don't go crazy and sugar them up like cookies! This is a light gesture. You just want a little to brighten them up with the hot temperature. Raise your arm and hand as you do this. Your sprinkling will be more even.

Additions: I often add a sprinkle of garlic powder and dried oregano. It really adds an other layer of flavours that seeps into the tomatoes but it doesn't dominate. Now you can go fresh obviously but it becomes something else. Try it one way or the other. Just remember that the focus is on the tomatoes! Same with the red pepper flakes. I don't add this often, just when I want to kick it up a notch. If I do, I go easy on the freshly ground pepper. It's all about balance and what you're in the mood for.

Pop in the oven for about 35 minutes or till it looks good. Serves 4 people with 2 halves each.

Tip: You can place them at the top and switch them to the low shelf once the macaroni and cheese is ready to go in. If your pan gets a bit too hot and dry and the running juices burn down, add a splash of water. If you're running out of time but want colour and a few crispy edges switch to the broiler for a few minutes. This recipe is easy to double, triple... We never seem to make enough.


  1. Bah! Tomatoes.

    I'm here for the pasta! I've been a mac and cheese monster in the last couple weeks and its been scary. I'm pretty sure i've gained 50 pounds in four days. I need to stop and i dont know how.

    I wanna picnic too ):

  2. Sorry kid, mac 'n' cheese is in one of my many drafts and tomatoes rule! :) Getting cold for picnics now. Went to the beach today to get some air and the only thing I ate was my hair! So windy.