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Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

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I’ve thought about writing a food preparation blog for students for a while now, but have never got around to it. I’m not sure that I’m ready to start now, but having posted my blog about fresh peas recently, I feel encouraged to write about today’s evening meal.I’d bought some fairly expensive, but good quality steak mince from the local farm shop for £2.95 per lb. Just a pound of mince can go a long long way, even if you have to buy the cheaper stuff from a supermarket. With my pound of meat I managed to eke out four good portions of SpagBol and a further seven portions of lasagne! How tight is that? Eleven portions from a pound of mince; eleven nutritious portions at that!

Of course, I used more than just the meat, so the cost per portion is way over the 27.5p we see at first glance. However, no more than 50-60p when we’ve finished.

I used a fairly large carrot, a couple of celery sticks and a medium onion – all minced together with some garlic and fried these with the mince. Nice and steady, not too fast – beating all the lumps out of the meat as it cooked. This lumpiness of mince is caused by the proteins coagulating/denaturing as they heat up – so they need breaking up. I then add salt and pepper, oregano, paprika and cumin (all powdered) – the amount is down to experience, don’t be scared to experiment. Next is a good half a tube of tomato purée and two tins of chopped tomatoes. Some soy sauce and lea and perrins for colour rather than flavour and we’re almost there. I also add some red lentils at this stage: half a cupful ish. tonight I only had brown lentils – so the cooking took a little longer. Give it at least half an hour – more won’t kill it!

And that’s it – done! Bolognese sauce. A pack of fresh lasagne sheets and half a litre of bechamel (I made that too) completed the lasagne’s (for the freezer) and some £1 noodles from Tesco sufficed for the Spaghetti part of the SpagBol.  We also had apple crumble, but that’s another story.

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