Tomato Bruschetta

A quick post today, for a very simple recipe. Tomatoes on toast. Yes, really. But believe me, this is much more delicious than I am making it sound. I have even fed it to people who don’t like tomatoes, and they’ve asked me for more. Tomato bruschetta might not be an original idea but, when they’re done right, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.


The choice of bread is crucial here. You may be tempted to go for a sourdough or a baguette, but I’d advise against anything too crusty. You don’t want to have to be pulling and tearing to get a mouthful, and end up with a heap of tomato bruschetta in your lap. Instead you want a pillowy, yielding bread, ideally fried gloriously golden to give it a perfect crispy exterior and a soft, warm interior. Something simple. If I’ve got the time, I do make my own bread for this, but a decent sandwich bread will do you fine. Buy it whole and slice it generously.


This recipe is all about using simple ingredients that work well together, and letting them do the heavy lifting for you. My kind of cooking.


This is my version of something we used to make at the cookery school, and since it’s Italian, I am assuming it came from the lovely Amelia Earl. She’s setting up a beautiful cookery school and bed and breakfast in Yorkshire, which you should definitely check out if you’re at all into food, gorgeous scenery, or nice people.


Don’t worry too much about weights and measures here. This tomato bruschetta will work perfectly well even if you’re not too precious about quantities. Just taste as you go along to make sure you’re happy.

If you have leftover tomato mixture after making this recipe, then you can pop it in the fridge and keep it for a couple of weeks, using as needed. It’s great on pizza or pasta too.



Around 1.5kg of fresh tomatoes, of any shape or size
A bunch of fresh basil leaves
Plenty of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar (the good stuff, not balsamic glaze or dressing)
3 fat cloves of garlic, 2 crushed and 1 whole
A knob of butter
A loaf of the bread of your choice (see above for details)
A ball of mozzarella


  1. Chop your tomatoes any old how (large chunks are fine) and put them in your largest saucepan. Add a handful of picked fresh basil leaves, reserving some for later, a generous glug of olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and two of the garlic cloves (crushed). Mix everything together and leave it to sit for half an hour (or longer, if you prefer).
  2. Put your tomato mixture on a medium heat on the hob, and boil until reduced. Stir it occasionally to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. How long this takes depends on how rich you’d like your tomato topping, how big your pan is, how high your heat is, and how many tomatoes you have. Personally, I cook mine for about an hour until I have a thick, rich, fragrant tomato base that is like the consistency of a tomato jam.
  3. Slice your bread into handy bitesize pieces. Heat a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan until foaming, then fry your bread, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden. Try not to let the butter burn. When the bread is fried, drain it on kitchen paper, then cut your remaining clove of garlic in half and rub both sides of the bread with the cut side of your garlic.
  4. Top each piece of bread with a generous dollop of the tomato mix, then finish with a torn piece of mozzarella and a basil leaf.



Holubtsi (Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage)

When I was eighteen, a childhood friend and I went to Russia together. We’d been friends when we were young, but had barely seen each other as teenagers. I am sure it must have been more complicated than this, but as I remember it, she basically rang me out of the blue and said ‘Do you want to go to Russia this summer?’ and I said yes.

I had lived in Siberia as a child, but didn’t have any memories of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where we were planning to go. It was only when I looked at a map that I registered that the place where we had lived, Bratsk, was about 3,250 miles east of Moscow, which perhaps explains why we weren’t exactly popping over there regularly. It probably goes without saying to those of you who aren’t as geographically idiotic as me, but Russia is bloody massive. Incomprehensibly, awe-inspiringly, mind-bendingly huge.

So that’s why my childhood memories of Russia are mostly of snowy wastelands and apartment blocks and queueing for hours to buy meat and nearly being blown away by gale-force wind before my father caught my arm and held me like a balloon (true story), as opposed to of cities like Moscow.


The food, though? I don’t really remember much of the Russian food I ate as a child. I remember what my mother fed us, but that was whatever she could get her hands on, rather than anything particularly authentic. When I went back when I was eighteen, though, we stayed with Russian hosts and got some of the real deal: I remember us both being slightly taken aback at being served bowls of fuchsia borscht with sour cream for breakfast one day. We ate chicken stew with cabbage and dumplings, drank vodka at stupid hours, and tried as much Russian chocolate as we possibly could. There’s a fairly intense tea culture in Russia (which was a bit unfortunate for me as I really don’t like tea) and everywhere we went we had cups of it pressed upon us in welcome as we crossed the threshold.

You may have noticed that I am rambling on about Russian food despite the fact that the title of this post clearly states that this recipe is Ukrainian. My only defences are a) Ukraine is very close to Russia so I reckon I can at least try and make the argument that they have similar cuisine (based on no factual knowledge) and b) eating this, I was reminded incredibly strongly of the Russian food I ate when I was eighteen, which then sparked this rambling reminiscence.

Hey, it’s my blog, I can write whatever rubbish I like.


Source: I picked up this book – Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine & beyond, by Olia Hercules – on a complete whim. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore it yet, but there are loads of interesting looking recipes.

Notes: I messed around with this a bit, so this version isn’t exactly echt, although I did so based more on what I had in than thinking that any real changes needed to be made.


Basic tomato sauce – whatever your usual recipe is will be fine, as will sauce from a jar if you are pressed for time
1 large Savoy cabbage
250g minced beef
250g minced pork
150g brown rice, parboiled for ten minutes and drained
(the original recipe called for 40g barberries, but to be honest, if I can’t get it at the supermarket then I am not going on a special trail for it and I have no idea where you would get barberries from).

to accompany

sour cream


  1. Make your tomato sauce (or open up your jar), and pop it into the base of an oven proof dish. Preheat your oven to 160C/ 140C fan/ gas 3.
  2. Carefully tear around twelve large leaves from your cabbage, and blanch them for three minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water. Refresh them in cold water, and then drain them as thoroughly as you can on kitchen paper.
  3. Mix your beef, pork, and rice together in a bowl (I always find this easiest using my hands) and season liberally. Place an egg sized lump of the mixture onto a cabbage leaf, fold the leaf up around it to make a parcel, and place the parcel in your tomato sauce. Repeat until all the mixture is gone. I am absolutely terrible at this sort of thing but found it completely fine – it’s easier than it sounds.
  4. Pop your dish in the oven and cook for around half an hour, or until each parcel is cooked through. Serve hot, with a bowl of sour cream and dill alongside.