Our recipe for a zingy tomato cobbler with blue cheesy dumplings. It’s a cornucopia of explosive mouthfeels and exciting flavours.
by John Pope on May 21, 2016
To start with, there are definitions to be debated, but this not the time for that. A ‘dumpling’ is what US readers might call a ‘biscuit’, but to me (and anyone else reading in the UK) a ‘biscuit’ is not something that you eat with gravy or put on the top of a stew, it is what a US reader might call a ‘cookie’.
Oh, and a cobbler is not somebody who fixes your shoes, it is a fruit or savoury filling topped with a batter or dumplings and baked.
This particular cobbler is not the generic (even if very nice) peach or apple variety though. It’s a much more exciting and savoury affair bursting with flavour from roasted tomatoes, the smokiness of bacon, a bit of zing from garlic and chilli, all brought together and complimented by the blue cheese in the dumplings.
Should you so desire, you could easily turn this into a vegetarian dish, just omit the bacon and use a vegetable fat in place of the lard in the dumplings. I’m sure it will still be lovely, but what can I say I’m a fan of the pig and there are very few things that bacon doesn’t make even better.
Cobble together a cobbler
A couple of notes: There is quite a lot of blue cheese in the dumplings, it is deliberate but if you aren’t a fan or would like them to have a more delicate flavour then just reduce it by 20 grams or so. Similarly with the chilli, you can use any variety you like and adjust the amount up or down to taste, do bear in mind though that you don’t want to overpower the tomatoes which are the real star of this show.
You can use any tomatoes you like, but they should be relatively thin skinned (which normally means smallish). If you are using cherry tomatoes then chuck them in whole, if you are using something slightly bigger then halve them but don’t remove any of the seeds, etc. from the middle. We used a mixture of Arlinta and Orange Rapture.
For the dumplings
- Plain flour240 g
- Baking powder2 tbsp
- Sugar1 tbsp
- Unsalted butter45 g
- Lard45 g
- Stilton100 g
- Buttermilk180 ml
- Black pepper
For the tomato bit
- Tomatoes900 g
- Medium onions2
- Smoked bacon lardons180 g
- Olive oil1 tbsp
- ButterA knob
- Garlic cloves4
- Green chilli1
- Plain flour3 tbsp
- Balsamic vinegar2 tbsp
- Worcestershire sauceA dash
- English mustard powder½ tsp
- Cayenne pepper½ tsp
- Fresh basil
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the baking powder, sugar and some salt and black pepper to taste.
Cut the butter and lard (or vegetable shortening) into small cubes. Add them to the bowl and rub into the dry ingredients until it is well mixed.
Crumble the stilton into the mixture and stir then make a well in the centre, add the buttermilk and use a fork or your fingers to bring everything together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times then form it into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and stick it in the fridge until needed.
Turn the oven on to preheat to 190°C (375°F)
Peel, halve and slice the onions, roughly chop the garlic and finely slice the chillis.
In a decently sized frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the onions and bacon and cook gently for 15-20 minutes until the bacon fat has rendered and the onions have softened and turned golden.
Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and seat aside for a minute.
In a large bowl toss together the tomatoes, a handful of roughly chopped basil leaves, mustard powder, cayenne and flour. Season with salt and black pepper, add the onion and bacon mixture and toss again until everything is evenly coated with flour.
Pour/spoon the mixture evenly into an baking dish about about 22cm (9″) square and put it into the preheated oven for about 25 minutes.
Take the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll it out to a thickness of about 2cm (¾”) and cut round (or any shape you like really) dumplings about 5cm (2″) in diameter. You will probably end up with more than you need, but you can freeze them and use them next time you make any kind of stew or cobbler (or just chuck them in the oven and eat them on their own).
Remove the partially cooked tomato from the oven, and place dumplings on the top, anywhere from nine to twelve is a sensible amount, they can be very close together but shouldn’t quite be touching because they will expand a little as they cook. Brush the tops of the dumplings with a bit of buttermilk or beaten egg.
Stick it back in the oven for about another 20 minutes, until the tomato mixture is bubbling hot and the dumplings have risen slightly and are golden brown (texture like sun).
Remove from the oven and leave it to rest for about ten minutes before eating.
…while it is baking…
In theory this should probably serve about six people, but it is so good that you aren’t going to pay much attention to portion control. Eat it with some simple green salad on the side and a glass of fruity wine.