Category Archives: Sauce

Roast Tomato Pasta Sauce

This pasta sauce is one of the ways I capitalize on seasonal abundance to save time and money while ensuring there are yummy things to eat. Beautifully ripe tomatoes were only $3.50/kg at the farmers’ market yesterday, so we bought a couple of kgs. By the end of the day they were nine 2 cup portions of pasta sauce conveniently packaged for later use. The method is simple and took about 30 minutes preparation time and 45 minutes cooking time.

Wash the tomatoes. Remove the stalk with the tip of a vegetable knife and cut the tomatoes in half.

Place cut side up in a roasting dish and top with your favorite sauce flavorings.

I topped mine with: roughly chopped onion and celery; thyme still on the stalk; sage; bay leaves; olive oil; cider vinegar (it would also be nice with balsamic, but it is a much more expensive vinegar); plenty of salt and pepper.

Bake at about 180 degrees Celsius until the tomatoes are well and truly cooked. This took 45 minutes in my oven. This is hotter than I would cook tomato halves to serve whole on bread. At a cooler temperature (~160 degrees Celsius) the tomato halves will lose less of their juices. I also would not pack the tomatoes so tightly if they were going to be served whole, because with so many in the tray they are almost steaming each other rather than truly baking.

After baking the tomatoes you have a choice. Option 1 (as illustrated here) you can make a rustic sauce that includes skins and bits of onion and celery or option 2 (not illustrated, but also yummy) you can make a more refined sauce without bits and lumps in it. Instructions for each methods will be provided separately.

Option 1: pick off all the bits of herb stalk, bay leaf and singed herb that you don’t want to end up in your final sauce.

Option 2: leave all of these bits on for now.

Option 1: mash the tomatoes with a potato masher until you reach the desired consistency. You could also blitz the sauce in a food processor, but I am not too keen on what this does to the consistency and color of the sauce.

Option 2: press the tomatoes through a sieve capturing the sauce below. You should be as vigorous with this as your sieve can handle (smushing the roasted onion and celery through as well) to capture maximum flavor and ensure you get a lovely thick product. You will need to scrape your sieve clean several times. I have found with experience that crispy toasted thyme stalks have the habit of breaking up and making their way through the sieve, so I recommend you pick these out beforehand.

If you have followed option 1 and decided later to make a more refined dish, you can always push it through the sieve at that point.

I packed the pasta sauce into zip lock bags, allowed them to cool on the bench and then laid them flat in the freezer so they freeze in easily stackable thin square blocks. If you are pushed for space in the freezer you can bottle this sauce by reheating it in a pot to boiling point and packing it into hot sterilized jars before screwing on equally hot sterilized lids. Leave on the bench to cool out of the breeze and check your seal before stacking in the pantry.

I love this sort of thing – it makes great emergency ‘I just can’t face/don’t have the time to cook’ meal. If you come home from work wanting dinner in the time it takes to boil pasta, just pull one of these bags from the freezer, run it under the hot tap for a minute so the outside defrosts enough for you to squeeze the sauce from the bag into a pot. Put the pot on a medium heat and stir regularly. The sauce will defrost in no time. A favorite in our house is to take a couple of bags of sauce and poor them over meatballs that have been browned on the outside and put into a casserole dish. Place the meatballs in sauce into the oven for 30 min or so and you will have beautifully moist morsels ready to perch on top of spaghetti. You can turn this sauce into soup by heating it, blitzing half of it in a blender or using a stick blender to puree some of it, adding a dash of cream and serving hot with crusty bread.

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Filed under Pasta Sauce, Sauce

Yummy eggs benedict; but would Escoffier have approved of what I did to his ‘Sauce Hollandaise’ recipe?

Before I got into the habit of scouring the internet for recipes to guide my cooking adventures, I relied on great recipe anthologies such as Escoffier’s ‘The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery’. I still refer to Escoofier’s tome for sauce recipes, particularly foundation sauces, because they contain absolutely reliable proportions. This morning I consulted this well thumbed volume for the recipe for Sauce Hollandaise. I used his ingredient proportions, somewhat scaled back, but prefer a modern method of making this classic sauce that uses a blender. I do wonder what the father of modern French cusine would have thought of my method.

Let’s face it, hollandaise can be tricky. I am sure everyone who makes it will have an incident (split sauce, scrambled egg mouthfeel, fatty aftertaste) at some point. I make my hollandaise in a blender and it works for me, in that it produces a good product with little risk of incident. It may offend some traditionalist’s sensibilities, but I’m more interested in getting a quality home made product onto the plate. The only tip that I can give that applies to both the traditional method and my method, is that it is always easier to make a large volume than a small volume. The two egg recipe I give below is the smallest volume I would attempt to make.

To go under the poached eggs, I made a fresh batch of sourdough english muffins. Once again I used the recipe from Wild Yeast but this time I made them a little more refined than the last batch which had to be cooked on the barbeque because there was a power cut. These are doomed to become a standard in our house because they are easy to make and full of flavor.

Sauce Hollandaise

Specialist equipment: blender
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Makes enough sauce for 4 portions.

2 Tbs water
1 Tbs vinegar (I prefer white wine)
fresh ground pepper
salt
2 free-range egg yokes
200 g butter (melted)
1 lemon

Place the water, vinegar and a pinch each of the salt and pepper into a pot and reduce by half. Cool the reduction a little and place it and the egg yokes into the blender. If your yokes and reduction is lower than the blade, as it is in my blender, give them a little mix with a fork before starting. Swich the blender to a medium speed and slowly add the hot melted butter. This technique relies on the butter to cook the eggs, so the butter needs to be hot when it is addedd. About half way through, add a couple of drops of water. This helps ensure the sauce is light and has a nice mouthfeel. Add remaining butter, lemon juice to taste (I like my hollandaise quite piquant), salt and pepper.

If you are scaling up this recipe, retain the proportion of egg yoke to butter but decrease the relative volume of reduction. My blender can just hold four times this recipe without it coming flooding out the top.

Sauce hollandaise does not keep for long periods of time. It will, however, keep for a couple of hours in a warmish double boiler arrangement if topped with a cartouche. If you are just keeping it <20 min (the time it usually takes me to organize the rest of the meal) put the sauce hollandaise in a metal bowl or pot on the back of the stove (not on an element) and stir regularly to stop a skin from forming. The elevated ambient temperature in the vicinity of poaching eggs should stop the sauce from cooling too much.

I did not serve the eggs benedict in the traditional manner. Instead of ham (eggs Benedict), salmon (eggs Montreal) or spinach (eggs Florentine), we prefer alfalfa sprouts. Grown on our kitchen bench, they are crisp, fresh and go really well with the eggs.

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Filed under Bread Baking, Brunch, Eggs Benedict, Hollandaise