Roast tomatoes on toast with tarragon & thyme

I like the idea that something could become bigger, bolder, fuller and more intense as it withers, contracts, softens and breaks – it seems a great irony. This is exactly what happens when you slowly cook sweet, ripe tomatoes in a warm oven. They intensify, exaggerating everything that’s already there: colour, sugar, complexity. The heat caramelizes them, but also brings a trace of bitterness. Tarragon, with its intense, aniseed flavour, is the most amazing herb to use with tomatoes, so I don’t hold back – it gently perfumes the tomatoes during cooking. 


About 700g (1lb 9oz) ripe, heritage tomatoes – mixed sizes, colours and shapes

16 garlic cloves, peeled

1 bunch of tarragon

4 or 5 thyme sprigs

3–4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 slices rustic bread, or sourdough

salt and freshly ground black pepper 


Heat the oven to 140–150°C/275–300°F/gas mark 1–2.

To prepare your tomatoes, cut any larger ones into quarters or eighths and a handful of the smaller tomatoes in half. Place these on a baking tray, cut side up. Leave the rest of the tomatoes whole and scatter them onto the baking tray, too. Tuck the whole garlic cloves between the tomatoes.

Prepare the herbs by leaving any tender stems whole, and picking the leaves of any tougher ones. Discard the tough stems and then scatter the tender stems and picked leaves over the tomatoes. Drizzle over the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Place the baking tray in the oven and roast for 11⁄2–2 hours, until the tomatoes are collapsed and caramelized. When the tomatoes are ready, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes while you toast the bread.

Spoon the soft tomatoes on to the toast, along with a few garlic cloves, any roasting juices and lots of the crispy herbs, and serve straight away.