Student Suppers: Madeiran Tomato & Onion Stew

Madeiran Tomato & Onion Stew | @rachelphipps

So I was planning on making a Madeiran tomato and onion soup (sopa de tomate e cebola), but somewhere in the testing process I accidentally made the easiest, most delicious tomato and onion stew, which I just could not not share with you. This twist on a Madeiran peasants dish is hearty, filling and warming bowlful for cold, January days, uses almost exclusively store cupboard ingredients, and is so cheap to prepare using basic ingredients. While it is delicious with whatever you’ve got, as always the best quality ingredients produce the best quality dish, so this will always improve with the best ingredients you can afford.
Madeiran Tomato and Onion Stew | @rachelphipps

The guys at Monarch airlines challenged me to put my own spin on a classic dish from Madeira, and the soup sounded really easy and nourishing. Essentially, the classic is a hearty, tomatoey soup made from simmering tomatoes and onions, without the usual addition of stock. I think mine came out thicker because I was using tinned tomatoes, but the result is still a really wonderful meal served with the traditional poached egg on top (sometimes the eggs are poached in the soup, but as this is a stew I do it separately), and with a couple of slices of good crusty bread to scoop it all up with. My addition of a dash of Madeira at the end (a nod to what the Island is most famous for) is optional but recommended, adding a bit of richness and more sweetness to the stew. If you don’t have any Madeira, Masala would also be fine.

Madeiran Tomato and Onion Stew with a Poached Egg | @rachelphipps
Madeiran Tomato & Onion Stew with a Poached Egg | @rachelphipps

This recipe makes one bowlful just for you, but you can always scale it up to serve a couple of you. Though, as this really is hearty peasant food, I quite like the idea of making it just for you in a warm bowl ready with bread to scoop it right into your mouth when no one is looking, with the real treat of the poached egg with a perfectly runny yolk on top. This is the sort of thing they serve in little family run places on the island, to fill you up after a day hiking with little pretension or adherence to any recipe.

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Madeiran Tomato & Onion Stew

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 1
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Maderian


This really easy Maderian Tomato & Onion Stew is perfect for a really cheap and filling supper.


  • Splash Light Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
  • Large Pinch Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove, sliced
  • 1 x 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Madeira (optional)
  • 1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Crusty Bread, to serve


  1. Heat the oil over a medium low heat in a medium saucepan until it is shimmering. Add the onions and a large pinch of golden caster sugar, and cook for 8-10 minutes or so, until the onions are soft and starting to go golden. Don’t worry if you’re getting brown bits on the bottom of the pan; they’re an important part of what will go on to flavour your stew.
  2. When the onions look like they’re about the start burning, add the sliced garlic and cook that until it only just starts to brown.
  3. Add the tomatoes, and scrape all the flavours off of the bottom of the pan into the stew. Swill a splash of water around in the empty can so you don’t waste any of the tomato, and season the stew well with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn the temperature up until it is bubbling, then put it back down to low. Allow the stew to simmer for 20 minutes. 
  5. Poach the egg in a pan full of boiling water (with the vinegar stirred into the water) for 3 minutes (you can find my tips on poaching eggs here).
  6. While the egg is poaching, add the Madeira to the stew, and season it to taste with salt, pepper, and depending on your brand of tomatoes a little bit more sugar if you think it needs a bit more sweetness. Serve straight away in a warm bowl, and enjoy!

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