a very simple upside-down tomato and basil 'pie'

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

a very simple upside-down tomato and basil 'pie'

This is one of my great stand-bys when I want something really delicious that looks special but doesn’t take forever to make. The recipe was in my first cookbook and I’ve been both astounded and delighted at the number of people who tell me that they make it regularly. It’s always such a joy to hear something like that, because I love it and it’s great to know that others do too.

It’s interesting how many people have also said that they make their own versions of it. One good friend sits a layer of sautéed onion under the tomatoes; another adds slivers of olives and semi dried tomatoes to the base. I’m sure there are many other versions as well, all equally good.

1 x 800g can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
100g parmesan, freshly grated
50g good cheddar, finely grated
125g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
A couple of shakes of Tabasco sauce
6-8 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced (Roma tomatoes are ideal)
1/3 cup finely shredded basil leaves
Tiny basil leaves, to garnish

Preheat your oven to 180C. Butter a 26cm x 6cm round ovenproof dish (I use a Pyrex dish) and line the base with buttered baking paper. Set it aside.

Pour the canned tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl and leave them to drain. Give them a stir occasionally to make sure as much liquid seeps away as possible.

Meanwhile, whiz the flour, salt and mustard together in a food processor. Add the cheeses and whiz again to just mix them in. Scatter the butter chunks over the top, and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. (If you don't have a food processor, you can do all this in a bowl and rub the butter in by hand.) Tip the mixture into a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and Tabasco sauce. Make a well in the cheese mixture and pour in the egg mixture, then stir everything together to make a fairly stiff batter.

Lay the sliced tomatoes in overlapping circles in the base of the buttered dish so the bottom is completely covered. Now spoon the drained tomatoes over the top and spread them out evenly (be a bit gentle doing this so you don’t disturb the pattern of the sliced tomatoes.) Sprinkle them with the shredded basil. Dollop spoonfuls of the batter over the basil and tomatoes, then, with lightly floured hands, pat it out with your fingers to spread it evenly. Don’t worry if there are a few little gaps - they fill out as the pie cooks.

Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes or until the topping has risen and is golden. (The time will vary a bit depending on how thick your dish is.) Test it by inserting a thin skewer into the topping; if it comes out clean the pie is ready. Remove the pie from the oven and leave it to settle in the dish for five minutes. Then sit a serving platter on top and carefully invert the pie onto it. Remove the dish and paper (and enjoy how gorgeous it looks and smells) then mop up any juices that seep out onto the plate.

Now, just scatter some basil leaves on top and it’s ready to eat. (Funnily enough, this does reheat well. I’ve gently warmed up leftover slices after a few days in the fridge, and although the tomatoes become a bit mushy, and it doesn’t look quite so eye-catching, it still tastes terrific. ) Serves 6.

If you’d like to get this ready ahead of time…

You can have the tomato part already sitting in the pie dish, and the wet and dry ingredients for the topping ready in separate bowls. All you need do then is mix them together and spoon the batter over the top, before popping the whole lot into the oven.

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