Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Tomato Sauce Recipe

Every cook should have their own tomato sauce recipe. One that suits their family's tastes and needs. You make it to serve stirred through spaghetti, to form the base on a pizza, add to stews or ladle over meatballs. It should be a simple sauce made with just a few ingredients, it should be possible to replicate it during the winter months - not wait for the full ripe summer tomato, and it should be 'good enough' to use on it's own - not needing additions of grated cheeses, minced meats or shellfish......and as the Italian chef Marcella Hazan put it "No other preparation is more successful in delivering the prodigious satisfactions of Italian cooking than a competently executed sauce with tomatoes."

So this is my family recipe, the one I've been making for 30 years. It's been tweaked over that time, but essentially it's still the same and over the years I must have made it hundreds of times and never once has it let me down!

800g chopped tomatoes - in winter that's x2 400g can, in summer 1 can plus 400g freshly chopped tomato
2 large onions very finely diced
4 large plump cloves garlic - lightly flattened with a knife blade
1 stick celery
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
a large pinch chilli flakes
a large pinch sea salt
a little sugar if the tomatoes are not sweet enough - optional - which I only ever add if my Dad is eating with us!

(If your using fresh tomatoes you will need to peel, de-seed and core them before chopping - that's why I usually use canned, unless I have a bowl of really good, full flavoured, fresh tomatoes and the time, the inclination and love to devote to the sauce)

Place the olive oil, garlic and onion in a deep saucepan and cook over a low to medium heat until the onions have softened. You don't want to burn or colour the garlic so keep the heat low. Stir occasionally - this fragrant scent of hot olive oil, garlic and onion is one of my favourite smells of the kitchen - to me it means good food is on it's way!

Once the onions have softened and taken on a shiny opaque look add the chilli flakes and let them cook for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes. (If you see any hard lumps of core in the tinned tomatoes remove them) Add the bay leaves, and the whole stem of celery. Turn up the heat a little to get the sauce to a simmer - not a boil. Now leave it to gently cook away for at least 45 minutes to a hour. You can leave it to cook for longer if you wish, but I find a hour is fine. The more time you can give it to cook the more mature and rich the tomato flavour will become. Whilst it's cooking the garlic and onions will melt into the sauce. Stir frequently whilst cooking just to check it's not catching at the bottom of the pan.

Allow to cool slightly, remove the stick of celery and discard. Taste and add your salt - if it's needed add a little sugar for a sweeter sauce.

If your not using the sauce straight away, spoon into jars and it will keep in the fridge for about 4 or 5 days. It also freezes well but I like to make a fresh sauce each time.

Here's a printable

Have a great day
Love Lizx

 Tomato Sauce Recipe

Monday, 25 July 2016

Buttered Lobster Tails

Nothing looks quite as magnificent and decadent than a plate of lobster tails but it's actually one of the easiest dished to make. The secret is not to over cook, keeping it sweet and succulent.

There are lots of ways to cook a lobster - boiled, grilled and if the weathers right, barbecued. But for this recipe I simply baked them in the oven with a little butter and lime juice.

Recipe - enough for two
2 large, uncooked lobster tails
2oz butter
handful fresh fennel fronds
juice and zest of a lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra lime wedges to serve

pre heat oven to 190C/Gas 5

First of all you need to split your lobster tail in half lengthwise. The shell can be quite tough so I suggest using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to get through and then a sharp knife for the flesh. Once you have cut the tail in half gently loosen the shell from the meat - the easiest way is to do this with your fingers. You just want to break the membrane that attaches the meat to the shell to make it easier to eat.

Now lay the tails, shell side down, into a high sided baking dish, cover and place to one side.

Next you need to melt the butter and lime juice together in a small pan. Heat over a low flame to gently melt the butter. At this stage you don't need to warm it too much just enough to melt it.

Brush a little of the melted butter and lime juice over the surface of the lobster tails. Pour a cup of water onto the base of the baking tray around the tails. Place in the oven, uncovered, to cook for about 15 to 20 minutes until the flesh is firm and opaque.

Whilst the lobster tails are cooking you can finish off the herb butter. Finely chop the fennel and add about a teaspoon to the melted butter. Place back over a very low heat and add the lime zest, salt and pepper. Stir and then leave to heat through - do not let it boil or burn.

Once you lobster tails are cooked remove from the baking tray and place onto warm plates.

Spoon the herb butter, generously, over the tails and serve straight away. With a bowl of french fries or some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

You can use this herb butter for grilled or boiled lobster, crab or prawns. It's also great poured over scallops or oysters as well!

Have a great start to your week
Love Lizx

 Buttered Lobster Tails

Friday, 22 July 2016

The first of the Runner Beans

A few days ago we harvested our first pick of runner beans - and the first bowl of hot buttered beans is my favourite! I could easily eat a bowl of just boiled beans, tossed in butter with a little salt and pepper.

We have planted a row of runner beans all along the side of Andrew's workshop, the idea was that they would get watered via the run off from the roof - however, so far this year we have had either torrential rain or nothing for days - certainly not those gentle warm rain showers I was imagining when we planted them! So we spend most evenings either earthing the beans back up again -thanks to that torrential rain exposing their roots, or standing there watering the poor dry things! It's all or nothing this summer!

But our care has paid off and we now have rows of plants all bearing beans.....

The first few pickings always get treated the same - with them being so young and fresh they don't need any trimming to remove stringy veins. I just slice them on the diagonal, throw into a pot of boiling water and cook for just a few minutes until tender. Drain and add butter, salt and pepper.

Later on I may serve them for lunch with a poached egg on top, maybe with a bit of ham or bacon. We will have them as a side dish to meat and fish. Sometimes with some parmesan on top and then as the summer draws to an end we will pick the last few crops and turn them into a relish for cold meat and cheeses during the winter.

Have a happy and healthy weekend
Love Lizx