In the spirit of Nigel Slater’s programme last night on soft and crisp food textures, this is a great recipe that combines the winning combination of tomato and basil with that most desirable of things – crispy cheese. You know when cheese pools in the bottom of the grill pan and forms that delicious hard disc of salty cheesiness, the kind of stuff that wars could be started over? Well that’s what you’re getting on each of these tomato slices. The tomatoes cook down and intensify in flavour, the cheese bubbles away and the polenta soaks up all of the flavour from everything else and seals it into a crunchy coating. Just fabulous. I last made them in Spain, so Manchego cheese seemed the right thing to use, but you could also use a firm goats cheese, or even a crumbly English cheese like Lancashire, Cheshire or Wensleydale. Ideal for when you need to cook something both vegetarian and gluten free.
- Cut the tomatoes into slices – try to keep them uniform, put the ends aside and use them in a salsa instead.
- Put the tomatoes in a colander over a bowl with 2tsp salt and leave for around 20 minutes until liquid has formed in the bowl.
- Meanwhile, cut the manchego cheese into small squarish slices around two thirds the size of the tomato slices. Set aside as many single basil leaves as there are slices of tomato.
- Season the polenta with pepper only (the tomatoes will already have enough salt) and put into a dish, whisk the egg and place in another bowl next to the polenta. Put a grill rack to the other side of the polenta dish.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C and dry the tomatoes on some kitchen towel.
- In one motion, dip each tomato in the egg, then into the polenta on one side only, then place on the rack.
- Place a basil leaf on each tomato slice, followed by a slice of cheese:
- Brush over with the remaining egg (I didn’t have a brush, so had to just fling the egg in the general direction of the tomatoes, but they still came out fine).
- Scatter more polenta generously over the tomatoes, then tap the grill rack to dislodge any loose grains.
- Transfer the tomatoes to a lightly oiled oven tray or baking tray, then drizzle olive oil over the top.
- Cook in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are golden brown (you can finish off under the grill briefly to add some colour).