But­tery caramel, crisp pas­try and tomato – it’s as ex­cit­ing a union as it sounds.

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When an idea is as good as tarte Tatin, it would be noth­ing short of a culi­nary crime to con­fine it to ap­ples – that may have been what the good sis­ters were cook­ing when Stephanie Tatin made her happy mis­take, if you be­lieve that par­tic­u­lar ori­gin story, but but­tery caramel and crisp pas­try are a happy pair­ing with ev­ery­thing from homely plums to ex­otic pineap­ple rings, as well as more savoury fruits such as the tomato or pep­per.

In­deed, a tomato tatin, a sta­ple of French brasserie menus in sum­mer (if you’re in Paris, do have one at Les Philosophes for me), is an ex­cel­lent way to make the most of the slightly dis­ap­point­ing to­ma­toes, al­though it also works with fruit that’s too ripe or too bruised to serve raw. Clearly, be­cause to­ma­toes are rather dif­fer­ent to ap­ples, and be­cause this isn’t a dessert, it’s not suf­fi­cient sim­ply to sub­sti­tute one for the other in the orig­i­nal recipe. So how do you make the per­fect tomato tatin?


Al­though you can make a tomato tatin – or, in­deed, any other kind of tart – with what­ever fruit you hap­pen to have ly­ing around, from cher­ries to stripy green tiger to­ma­toes, I’m with food writer Sarah Beat­tie when she rec­om­mends us­ing the ‘drier, meatier sort’, such as plums. The prin­ci­pal prob­lem with many of the recipes I try is that to­ma­toes con­tain far more liq­uid than ap­ples – they’re about 94 per cent wa­ter, if Google is to be be­lieved – much of which is re­leased as the fruit cooks, leav­ing the pas­try be­low sadly soggy once the tart has been up­turned for serv­ing.

For­tu­nately, plum to­ma­toes are some­what

less well-hy­drated than the av­er­age, and more amenably shaped for this pur­pose than the sim­i­larly fleshy beef va­ri­ety, but you’ll still ben­e­fit from re­mov­ing the skins, to al­low more wa­ter to evap­o­rate, and the jel­lied seeds, then cook­ing the to­ma­toes briefly to re­lease their juices, as sug­gested by Cara Mangini in her book The Veg­etable Butcher.

Al­ter­na­tively, if you have more time on your hands, but don’t want to spend it claw­ing at tomato skins, you can slow-roast them be­fore bak­ing, as Anna Jones does in a recipe based on the one served at her wed­ding, and as Harry East­wood also does in her book The Skinny French Kitchen, writ­ing that ‘if you’ve never sun-dried your own to­ma­toes, you’re in for a real treat: they’re amaz­ing.’


My own clas­sic tarte Tatin recipe is topped with a thick layer of fudgy caramel, which, it must be ad­mit­ted, goes bet­ter with ap­ples, pears and their ilk than to­ma­toes. All the recipes I try for the savoury kind, bal­ance the nec­es­sary sweet el­e­ment with vine­gar, with Ta­masin Day-Lewis es­chew­ing straight sugar al­to­gether in her book The Art of the Tart, pre­fer­ring a sticky, re­duced mix­ture of bal­samic vine­gar and madeira or port, which glides off the whole cherry to­ma­toes she uses, and melts away.

Lind­sey Bare­ham’s Big Red Book of To­ma­toes whisks to­gether bal­samic vine­gar with sugar, salt and oil to make a dress­ing, which is then poured over the to­ma­toes be­fore bak­ing, drained off af­ter­wards, and poured back over just be­fore serv­ing, to keep the pas­try as crisp as pos­si­ble. It’s pleas­ant, but feels more like a warm tomato salad than the sticky tart I’m af­ter. A more suc­cess­ful ap­proach from Mangini re­duces the oil, vine­gar, sugar and tomato cook­ing juices to make a thick, jammy sauce, which is then driz­zled over the fin­ished tart.

Diana Henry’s recipe con­tains the most con­ven­tional caramel, made by boil­ing to­gether wa­ter and sugar, then stir­ring in but­ter and sherry vine­gar. It’s de­li­cious, but ends up min­gling with the juices from her to­ma­toes and get­ting rather lost in the fin­ished dish. I de­cide to use a sim­i­lar recipe, without the wa­ter, but cook the to­ma­toes briefly in the caramel as I would do with ap­ples, both to coat them in caramel and to ex­pel some more juices be­fore they meet the pas­try.

The ex­tras

The caramel el­e­ment in Jones’ recipe comes from thinly sliced red onions, slow-cooked with honey, vine­gar and herbs, then spread be­tween the to­ma­toes and the pas­try. Henry and Mangini also in­clude sim­i­lar lay­ers, al­though I try shal­lots, as rec­om­mended by the great Proven cal Amer­i­can food writer Pa­tri­cia Wells, in Mangini’s tart in­stead, and can con­firm they do the job just as well; yel­low onions would also do, at a pinch, though you’ll prob­a­bly need to add a sprin­kling of sugar to help them along. All caramelised al­li­ums are, of course, de­li­cious – no news there – but they’re hardly a sub­tle flavour, and I find they over­power the star turn, so I’ll be leav­ing them out in favour of a few thin slices of gar­lic, which should com­ple­ment, rather than com­pete with, the head­line act.

The same goes for herbs: Mangini’s gen­er­ous hand with the basil, sage and rose­mary gives her tart a ‘slightly soapy’ flavour as far as my testers are con­cerned; if you’d like to use basil, I think it works bet­ter scat­tered fresh on top, as in Bare­ham’s ver­sion, but I’m go­ing to stick with thyme, which per­forms bet­ter in the oven, adding a qui­eter, more savoury depth of flavour.

Bare­ham fin­ishes her tart with grated Parme­san, and Henry rec­om­mends that or crum­bled goat’s cheese as an op­tional ex­tra – both are ex­cel­lent ideas if you’d like a more sub­stan­tial meal, but my heart is stolen by Jones’ crisp fried capers, ‘lit­tle flow­ers’, as she puts it, which pop in the mouth, adding bursts of salt to ev­ery bite.


Tarte tatin can be made with ei­ther puff or short­crust pas­try, al­though all the recipes I try here use the for­mer, with the ex­cep­tion of Mangini’s ro­bust, slightly sweet short­crust, which, it must be noted, stands up bet­ter to the juici­ness of the fruit and would be a bet­ter choice if you’re plan­ning to trans­port the tart

To­ma­toes are rather dif­fer­ent to ap­ples, and be­cause this isn’t a dessert, it’s not suf­fi­cient sim­ply to sub­sti­tute one for the other

any dis­tance be­fore con­sump­tion.

How­ever, al­though I pre­fer short­crust for an ap­ple tarte Tatin, to­ma­toes some­how seem bet­ter served by a crisper, more del­i­cate crust – al­beit one con­tain­ing even more but­ter. I’m not some­one who believes there’s much point in sweat­ing over home­made puff pas­try when there’s such good ready-made stuff out there, but I do try one of the tarts with home­made rough puff, and can con­firm this also works a treat if you’d pre­fer to take all the credit your­self.

Lastly, Bare­ham’s right – this tart is bet­ter warm rather than hot from the oven. Pa­tience is a virtue.

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