Papaya and Bacon Filled Tomatoes

by Dr. Hennie Fisher
papaya recipe

If you have never made a filled, uncooked, tomato, you have not experienced one of the great food delights, they most certainly are delicious and delightful. In Anatolian cuisine, stuffed or filled tomatoes are often cooked along with a myriad of other filled vegetables. But uncooked filled tomatoes have an added advantage in that they are almost like ‘pocket’ salads – everything neatly wrapped and packed in a round, easily accessible and compact pouch, ready for eating. They transport well, so they are ideal for picnics, and often when we braai a bit later in the day the lighting may not be so good, making dishing up a salad that scatters all over the plate problematic. In those situations, opt for these ready-to-go instant salads that can be dished up and eaten quite easily.

If you believe skinning a tomato is too much fuss, by all means go ahead and keep the skin on – it is in any case probably healthier that way. But if you like the idea of a skinless tomato, learn to do them well. They should in no way be ‘furry’, meaning that only the thinnest bit of tomato skin is removed and the flesh under the skin should remain firm, not watery or mushy. To do this, you need good, evenly ripe firm tomatoes. You need to make a small cross on the flower-end of the tomato, piercing just through the tomato skin. This will help release the skin after its baptism in boiling water. You may remove the stem end at this point if you wish. For filled tomatoes it is imperative not to gouge out the stem too deeply – just cut the shallowest part of the stem area away leaving a small ‘dent’ in the tomato. Have ready a deep pot with plenty of boiling water, and a deep bowl with ice water and some ice cubes floating in the water. Now dunk the tomatoes one-by-one into boiling water, using a slotted spoon. If your tomatoes are evenly ripe, they should not need more than 10 seconds under the water. If there is any slight greenness to the tomato, you may need to hold it under the boiling water for a few more seconds. Immediately place in the ice-cold water. As soon as they are cold, remove from the ice bath. Using a sharp small paring knife, wedge the blade under a bit of loose skin where you cut the cross into the tomato to loosen and pull the skin away. Reserve the skins for the dressing – see below in the ingredients list. The secret to a perfectly peeled tomato is very hot boiling water and an immediate ice bath to arrest the cooking.

There is both papaya in the filling of the tomato and in the dressing. The tomatoes need the dressing and the papaya offers a fresh fruitiness to the filled tomatoes. If you wish for a vegetarian version, omit the bacon or replace with something such as soft Danish feta cheese. These tomatoes are great as a side dish, but with a crusty baguette they will be an excellent starter.

Ingredients for 6 to 7 tomatoes, depending on the size:

1 kg firm but very ripe large tomatoes (around 6 to 7 tomatoes) – you could use smaller tomatoes and prepare more than one per guest, but scooping out the inside of the tomato is already a cumbersome and fiddly job which becomes fiddlier when you have smaller tomatoes
80 g firm papaya, cut into small dice
150 g bacon (a nice fatty cut), cut into relatively small pieces and fried until crisp in 15 ml olive oil (one could also cook the bacon the microwave or air fryer)
60 g atchar, finely chopped (choose an atchar which suits your level of hotness – a little heat would be better, but mild will also do)
60 g pickled peppadews, finely chopped
8 g (± 4 tablespoons) fresh parsley, finely chopped

For the papaya dressing:

60 ml sunflower or light olive oil
5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
15 ml (1 tablespoon) fresh lemon juice
80 ml tomato water (see instructions below)
50 g ripe papaya
5 ml (1 teaspoon) prepared mustard
½ garlic clove, finely chopped
Reserved tomato skins (see comments above)


Skin the tomatoes as per the discussion above. Use a very sharp serrated knife and cut away a ‘lid’ on the flower end of the tomato – set aside (keep track of which lids belong to which tomatoes). Use a very pointed teaspoon (a grapefruit spoon would be even better) to scoop fibre and seeds out of the tomato – be careful not to damage the tomato in any way. Reserve everything that is removed from inside the tomatoes. Place tomatoes upside down on some kitchen paper to drain a little.

Make the filling by combining all the ingredients.

Make the dressing by first juicing the parts removed from inside the tomatoes. Squish all of this through a sieve. Place the required volume and all the other ingredients in a small liquidizer or in the jug of a hand-held immersion (stick) blender. Blend until smooth and emulsified. Correct the seasoning if necessary.

Divide all the filling between the tomatoes, packing them generously full. Replace their lids and drizzle lavishly with dressing.