(using tomatoes, garlic and herbs from the tunnel - and onions from the garden)
|Totally Terrific Tomato sauce on steamed 'courgetti' (spiralised courgettes steamed for 4 mins)||Another use for my Totally Terrific Tomato Sauce - in the delicious layers of aubergine Parmigiana|
This sauce is named after the 'Totally Terrific Tomato Festival' - an idea I came up with in 2012. That year we had 96 varieties of tomatoes on show grown by various people, and I think I grew 47 of them! I wanted to show people just a tiny part of the amazing range of tomatoes there are out there and also to show how important it is to preserve the genetic diversity of all vegetables, and not to lose varieties. Each one is a precious package passed down from previous generations of people who thought they had some quality that made them worth growing. Each one could potentially contain a gene that could quite possibly save all tomatoes from some dreaded disease at some time in the future. Who Knows? Anyway - after the Festival I was left with an awful lot of tomatoes and had to do something with them - so I invented this very easy to make sauce! The last thing I had time for with crates and crates of tomatoes was any faffing around skinning them etc.!
It's a really versatile sauce that's always bubbling away on the slow side of my range at this time of year - and is a great way to use up a glut of tomatoes before they go off - particularly if you haven't got room to freeze them whole and make it later. Some of the very best flavoured varieties, particularly the older heritage types, tend not to keep for very long or crack around the stem, as their skins are much softer. That's why you never find them in supermarkets. But they're great in this - giving it an amazing flavour. If the colours are varied - if you have lots of brown or green tomatoes for instance - the sauce can end up a weird kind of mud colour but it tastes absolutely fabulous!
It's a good natured really useful recipe that can become the base for any number of different meals. It freezes fantastically well, and thaws out very quickly if you freeze it in individual portions. Used as it is it makes a lovely pasta sauce without any additions. You could add cream and/or soft cheese to it and perhaps a few chopped green peppercorns and perhaps some crispy fried bacon lardons if you're not vegetarian, to turn it into an unusual creamy pasta sauce. Thinned with some hot vegetable or chicken stock it can become soup - in which case you can just throw it into some boiling hot stock in a saucepan, and you have lunch or supper in no time at all. With a little cold stock when thawed out you can whack a slug of vodka into it and it becomes a very posh chilled summer soup.
Reduced down to a thicker consistency it can be used as a base for lasagne, Aubergine Parmigiana - (some pics of this being assembled at end of recipe) - or even thicker still as a pizza topping. You could top it with a poached egg or goat's cheese and eat it with some crusty bread. Pour a few glugs of Sauvignon Blanc into the thickened sauce with a few frozen prawns and you have 'Prawns Provencale'. Or maybe a few bits of chicken, some peas, rice and a few threads of saffron and you have Paella....I could go on for ever with the endless permutations of this incredibly easy but endlessly useful sauce!
It's cheap to make. If you don't grow your own tomatoes, onions and herbs you can get all the ingredients anywhere at this time of year. If it's the middle of winter you can even make it from tinned tomatoes - and it still makes a delicious sauce that is far cheaper and far more nutritious than any you will ever buy! It's also really frugal as it makes use of the less than perfect tomatoes that may split or have the odd black spot - you can use every bit of the tomato that's good - so there's no food wasted!
It's also really easy to make. The preparation is fast but the cooking does take a bit of time...during which you can be getting on with your book or whatever just giving it the occasional stir! You don't need to stand over it for hours.
It's suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
It freezes brilliantly. Frozen in individual portions it thaws out quickly and you can have a meal in under half an hour!
Lastly - it's incredibly healthy - full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients! Because the skins of the tomatoes are not removed - it means that not only is an awful lot of mess and hassle avoided, but it also means that all of the precious nutrients in the tomatoes are retained. Then the long gentle cooking with the olive oil makes phytochemicals such as lycopene in them available to be easily absorbed by the body.
You'll need a sharp knife, a blender and a very large, heavy based saucepan to make the sauce in if you're making a large quantity.
You really don't have to be precise about these - just a rough guide!
For roughly 1kg/2lbs 2oz tomatoes of any sort, and obviously the better the tomatoes the better the flavour - or for 3 x 400g cans of tomatoes - you will need
Extra virgin organic olive oil.
1 large or 2 medium onions
3-4 cloves of garlic (don't worry if you're not a garlic fan - it mellows in the long slow cooking)
1 tablespoon each of freshly chopped basil and parsley (or frozen chopped)
1/2 tsp good aged balsamic vinegar if wished (not strictly necessary but gives a nice sweet/acid edge to the sauce - don't use cheap rubbish!)
1 level tsp dark muscovado sugar (This brings out the dark 'umami' flavour better than white sugar)
Concentrated tomato puree (you can add some of this to bump up the flavour a bit if the tomatoes are not the most flavoursome)
1-2 drops of red Tabasco sauce (again only if wished - not necessary)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(I use all organic ingredients if possible but it's up to you. )
1. Remove skins from the onions and garlic and chop finely in a food processor.
2. Add a few glugs of olive oil to cover the bottom of the large saucepan and sweat the onions over a very gentle heat with the lid on until they are translucent and cooked but not browned. You must stir this occasionally to avoid it sticking. (If you don't cook them until they're really soft before adding the tomatoes, they will remain tough and lumpy. Something to do with the acid in the tomatoes)
3. While the onions are cooking, wash the tomatoes clean if necessary, roughly dry to remove excess moisture, and remove any bad bits, black spots or large tough core at the stalk end (normally only beefsteaks have large tough cores at the stalk end)
4. Blitz the tomatoes as finely as possible in the food processor.
5. When the onions are cooked, add in the processed tomatoes, and bring it all to a gentle simmer.
6. Add one heaped tablespoon of chopped or frozen chopped basil - and the same of parsley. You could also add a pinch of dried oregano if you like - but be careful with this as dried herbs can be very strong. If overdone it can taste a bit medicinal. It's not that necessary anyway - but I like it. Always add any dried herbs you're using at least 30 mins before the end of cooking. You could also add a half teaspoon of good aged balsamic vinegar at this stage if you like. Don't use cheap stuff as it's far too acid. Also add the teaspoon of muscovado sugar and lightly season with salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Don't add too much salt at this stage - it can be adjusted later. Don't forget that as the steam evaporates off and the liquid reduces and thickens - the flavours will concentrate and become stronger.
7.Keep it bubbling away quietly - just barely 'plopping', stirring occasionally to stop it sticking, until it's as thick as you want it. As it gets thicker be careful that the bottom doesn't 'catch' and burn. There's nothing worse than burnt tomato sauce!
8.When it's almost the consistency you want - adjust the seasoning, and add another teaspoon or so of basil and parsley to taste. This freshens up the flavours and really 'lifts' it. You could also add a couple of drops of red Tabasco hot pepper sauce now if you like a bit of a 'kick' - but take care - because if you're freezing this sauce - the 'chilli' heat can tend to magnify slightly in freezing for some reason!
|1. & 2.Chop onions & garlic finely in food processor, sweat in olive oil until transluscent||3. Tomatoes prepared for sauce, any bruised, bad or stalky bits removed - but not skins!|
|4. Blitz prepared tomatoes as finely as posssible in food processor||5. When onions are cooked, add in the processed tomatoes and bring it all to a gentle simmer|
|6,7,8. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until it reaches the consistency you want.||9. Assortment of imperfect tomatoes before 'prepping' for sauce (4kg in pic)|
'Making an Aubergine Parmigiana using the Totally Terrific Tomato Sauce'
|1. Slice aubergines, brush with olive oil, place on greaseproof paper on baking sheets, sprinkle with salt, roast in ove at 220degC until golden.||2. Assemble starting with layer roast aubergines, then thin layer tomato sauce, thin layer grated or sliced mozzarella. Repeat until you've done 3 layers|
|3. Adding mozzarella to layers - this one was being made with my roast ratatouille a few weeks ago which is just as good for making a Parmigiana||4. Top the 3 layers with layer of roast aubergine & grated parmesan - then cook in moderate oven - about 180 deg C. until nicely browned (30-40mins)|