Ultimate Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes with Chilli, Garlic, Balsamic Vinegar and Bay Leaves

I was yearning for sunshine on a rainy day, when I found this recipe one lazy Sunday morning while perusing The Times- London, not New York, and couldn't help but be bewitched by the sumptuous picture and description of tomatoes dressed in loveliness and then reduced to perfection. Any tomatoes might do, but on this rainy fall day in Britain, a basket of heirloom tomatoes drooped in the corner and suddenly it seemed like sunshine might be the order of the day.

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1kg (any amount will do)  ripe tomatoes (even baby romas seem to work well)

4 garlic cloves, bruised and skin left on- just give them a good bang with the back of a knife

4 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme- optional

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 small hot red chilli, finely chopped (don't worry if you haven't got one)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Small bunch of fresh herbs, such as rosemary or oregano, chopped (again, optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3, about 300F.  Lightly grease a large, heavy ceramic baking dish or even a cookie sheet with 1 tbsp of the oil. Cut the tomatoes in half vertically from the stem down. Arrange them snugly in the baking dish, cut-side up.

2 Push the garlic cloves and bay leaves in between the tomatoes, add the thyme and pour the remaining oil evenly over the tomatoes to coat. Sprinkle the vinegar over the top.
3 Scatter the chillies evenly over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss over the chopped herbs.

4 Time for a little refreshment. Someone's in the kitchen with Stacey and Tash, and her name is Chardonnay.

4 Roast for about 2 hours. When cooked, the tomatoes will be lightly browned on top and oozing rich juices. If at any time,  it looks like they’re burning, reduce the heat slightly. Remove from the oven and, while still hot, gently squeeze each tomato with the back of a fork to release more juice. Be careful – they tend to spray.

5 Let them cool slightly. This will encourage the caramelised sugar in the roasted tomatoes to thicken, combining with the herbs, oil and vinegar to make a wonderful sauce. Serve warm or cold with fresh crusty bread, or toss with pasta and enjoy the sunshine.