Laura Faire: Sauce material

LAURA FAIRE
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014

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We are now settled into a new home and are just planting up our vegetable patch. Thanks to an insane urge to have absolutely everything tidy and squared away, I am up to date with my bottling. There is no preserving, bottling, freezing or jamming to be done for the first time in months.

One of my biggest bottling successes was the blackberries I spotted recently at the local farmers market. These were boiled up with apples and vanilla into the most delicious jam. It is so good, it's under careful surveillance by the husband. (He's allowed only one jar to be given away, and that was after careful discussion.)

It is with a mix of joy - and some shame - that I admire the jars of last year's tomatoes sitting on my larder shelf. Before bottling, the tomatoes had languished whole in the freezer for 10 months. The second they were ripe and perfect I pitched them in there, vowing to make passata as soon as possible.

Prompting from the husband led to a myriad excuses - I didn't have the right sized jars, the time wasn't right, the large preserving pot was inaccessible in the shed . . .

Reluctance to peel six kilos of tomatoes and push them through the Moulinex was the real reason. These tomatoes have dogged me for the best part of a year - every time I opened the freezer. At one point I had my mother lined up to preserve them but even she had the good sense to back out.

My problem was simply solved by making an easier sauce. It helps to be realistic about what really matters. It's a manic time for us - a new baby scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, new house, hungry toddler, husband in a new job, new garden to plant - now is not the time for peeling tomatoes.

Anything I manage to throw together for dinner right now won't be fancy or fine. These are not the days of poached fish with a vibrant passata. This tomato sauce will be smeared on pizzas, dolloped into casseroles, flipped through pasta and simmered with mince. My thinking is: Why chop an onion later under the pressure of the dinner hour when I can do it now in my last moments of relative leisure time?

I made two batches as simply as stated in the recipe below. I broke them down into 2kg lots because this is what fits my largest roasting pan. Even then it was a little bit dangerous and stirring the liquidy slop midway led to one of the worst burns I've had in ages.

Having undergone a bit of pain I decided to step it up a notch. With the final 2kg batch, I became adventurous. This simple sauce turns easily into a chutney. I went with Indian-inspired, as I had a kilo of turmeric corms in the freezer that I had been struggling to get through. To do this, triple the amount of vinegar and honey, add about a cup of turmeric corms, and a good tablespoon each of yellow mustard, cumin and coriander seeds. Put half through a food processor then recombine and seal in jars.

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My Indian Relish was devoured in less than two weeks, mostly in cheese sandwiches or with cold meat.

- Sunday Star Times

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