Category Archives: sauce

Salmon fillet served with a rice salad and mango and avocado salsa

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I have been trying out a couple of new ideas for fresh and healthy suppers whilst the weather has been so hot.  During the summer months I normally resort to green salads with bread and cheese or cured meats as they are so easy to make.  However, as a friend of mine was coming over to celebrate her recent engagement I wanted to cook something a little bit more impressive than just a salad…

At the moment the markets around me are full of ripe mangoes and avocados so I thought I would buy some and make a sweet and tangy salsa.  Provided you have a food processor this salsa can be made in a matter of minutes.  If you don’t have a food processor then dice the ingredients to make a slightly chunkier version of the salsa that will be equally as delicious.

For the rice salad, I used leftover rice that I had cooked for supper the previous day and then added a combination of vegetables that are all in season at the moment which meant the salad was packed full of flavour and different textures.  The salad was incredibly fresh and complimented the delicacy of the salmon.

Whilst I enjoyed the combination of the rice salad, salsa and fish I would recommend trying the salsa with grilled chicken and/or tortilla chips and the rice salad would be a good and slightly different side dish at a picnic or BBQ so it worthwhile giving a go.

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Mango and Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:

  • ½ a red onion
  • 1 avocado (peeled and stoned)
  • 1 ripe mango (peeled and stoned)
  • ½ -1 chilli (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 small handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • seasoning

Steps:

  1.  Place the red onion and chilli in a food processer and blitz until they are finely chopped.
  2. Then add the avocado, mango, coriander and blitz in the food processor till smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture out of the food processor into a bowl and stir in the lime juice, lemon juice and coriander season as necessary then decant into another bowl for serving.

Note:  If the salsa is kept covered it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

 

Rice Salad (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 150g pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes (finely diced)
  • 3-4 radishes (finely diced)
  • 2” cucumber (finely diced)
  • 1 avocado (finely diced)
  • 2tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season well and serve.

 

Salmon Fillet (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  •  paprika
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Place olive oil in a frying pan and heat on a medium temperature.
  2. Add the salmon fillets (skin side down)
  3. Season the salmon and sprinkle over a little paprika.
  4. Cover the frying pan with a lid, turn the temperature down slightly and cook for 7-10 minutes (or until the salmon is cooked).  Serve on a bed of rice salad with a little of the salsa on top.  Enjoy!

 

 

Venison wellington served with a red wine gravy

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Last November I followed the local hunt when they were shooting deer so that I could take some photographs of the day.  It was a really interesting experience that started at 8 o’clock in the morning, as all the hunters gathered at the ‘hunting lodge’ to sign in.  ‘Petit cafés’ were drunk in abundance as hunting stories and local news was shared amongst the hunters whilst they waited to hear the plan for the day.

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At 9 o’clock the chaps who were shooting set off in their little white vans and 4×4’s dressed in a combination of camouflage and high visibility jackets and hats, to position their stools (an absolutely necessity for comfort purposes when out shooting) , thermos flasks and set up their guns.  Those who were walking with the dogs stayed behind to lock up the lodge before heading out about 30 minutes later.

The dogs were split into 2 packs to work on either side of the valley.  Every time a dog picked up the scent of a deer you knew about it as the braying started and the hounds set off at speed.  A hunting horn was used to summon back the dogs as well as to announce if there had been a kill indicated by a single blow of the horn.

3BW_0422 At 12 o’clock on the dot the hunters packed up their guns and headed back to the lodge where the mornings kill was displayed and a glass of wine was handed out.  After much discussion of the morning’s success (7 deer and 1 fox) everyone headed inside to sit down on long trestle tables for a 5 course meal (soup, pâté, grilled meat and bean stew, cheese and chocolate mousse).  During the course of the lunch I found out that out of our commune of 1,400 people there are 130 registered hunters.  It also quickly became apparent that women rarely attend the hunt, resulting in much banter and joking amongst the men as they speculated as to whether this was where I hoped to find a husband

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I parted company with the hunt after lunch and left them to carry on for a further 3 hours.  When I caught up with some of them later that evening, they were in great spirits as they informed me they had had a super day having got a further 4 deer – bringing tally up to 11 deer and 1 fox.  This meant that when the deer were later skinned and butchered, each of the 30-odd hunters received roughly a side of deer at the end of the day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Venison Pasties, we had been given a side of roe deer before Xmas by the hunt as a thank you for allowing them to shoot on our land – as a result, over the last couple of months I have been able to cook various recipes using the venison.  Last night’s supper was without doubt in my mind the best of the lot, Venison Wellington.  I mean who doesn’t like tender meat flavoured with juniper berries picked in our forest, surrounded with mushrooms slowly cooked in cream and brandy wrapped in pastry that is packed full of butter and just flakes in your mouth….

If you can afford to buy the venison fillet then this is absolutely worth cooking!  Be patient when you make it and let everything cool completely before wrapping everything up in the pastry, if necessary prepare everything in the morning and then put it together in the evening.  Preparation is the key to making this dish!

 

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Venison Wellington (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 quantity rough puff pastry (see recipe below)
  • 500g venison fillet
  • 1/2tsp juniper berries
  • seasoning
  • 1 egg (for glazing)

For the Mushroom Duxelles:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms (diced)
  • 4 shallots (finely diced)
  • ½tsp thyme
  • 2-3tbsp brandy
  • 2-3tbsp cream
  • seasoning

Steps:

Stage 1 – Pastry

  • Prepare your rough puff pastry according to the recipe below.

Stage 2 – Prepare the meat

  • Remove any sinew or fat from the fillet.
  • Crush the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar then scatter them over the bottom of a roasting tray along with some salt and pepper.
  • Heat a frying pan so that it is ‘smoking hot’ – sear your fillet roughly 30 seconds on each side.  Remove from the pan and place in the roasting tray and roll in the juniper berry seasoning, then cover with tin foil and leave to cool completely.

Stage 3 – Prepare the Duxelles

  • Melt the butter in the frying pan you seared the meat in.
  • Add the thyme, mushrooms and shallots, cook on a low temperature very gently until the mushrooms are soft (this can take up to 1 ½hrs).
  • Add the brandy and cook for a further 10-15 minutes .
  • Finally add the cream and cook for a final 2-3 minutes before setting to one side and allowing to cool completely.

Stage 4 – Prepare your Wellington

  • Preheat your oven to 190C fan.
  • Roll out your pastry into a large rectangle on a piece of baking paper.
  • Spoon the Duxelles into the middle of the pastry and smooth out, leaving a slight border around the edges of the pastry.
  •  Place the fillet in the centre.

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  • Brush some egg wash around the edges of the pastry, then roll over the pastry to create a cylinder shape.  Seal the ends of the pastry by pinching it together gently.

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  • Finally roll the Wellington over so that the seal is on the bottom, score the top of the Wellington using the back of a knife, then brush with egg wash.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes then allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Rough Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 250g butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100-150ml chilled water
  • 1tsp salt

Steps:

1.  Place the flour, salt and butter in bowl and roughly ‘crumb together’ using your fingers.

2.  Add some of the water and bring the mixture together, adding more water if it is needed.

3.  Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

4.  Once chilled remove from the fridge and roll out into a rectangular shape.  Imagine that the rectangle is divided into thirds and fold, one side in to the middle and then fold the other side into the middle.  Turn it 90 degrees and then roll out and repeat again before wrapping up in cling film and chilling for 20 minutes.

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5.  Once chilled repeat step 4 again, chill for a final 20 minutes before rolling out for use.

[Note:  the quantities about makes about 600g of pastry.  The pastry can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days before using.]

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Red Wine Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • ½ tsp allspice berries
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour (make into a paste using a little water)

Steps:

  1. Place the wine, brandy, allspice, juniper berries and bay leaf into a small saucepan and heat until it has reduced by half.
  2. Add the beef stock and heat for around 5 minutes.
  3. Finally add the cornflour and heat until the gravy has thickened.  Serve immediately.

 

Duck in a rich red wine sauce

After a snowy weekend the rain has well and truly arrived and how!  Hetti (the now somewhat longer Dachshund puppy) does not like the weather much.  From day one, she established that she could retreat indoors via the cat flap whenever it suited her, much to the bemusement of the cat and the other dogs.   On the occasions that she feels that she is missing out on something exciting outside, she merely peers half in/half out of the cat flap to assess whether it is worth getting her paws wet…

Due to the cold and wet weather we have been ‘hibernating’, taking refuge close to the wood burner and/or Rayburn.  Consequently, there has been time to ‘play’ in the kitchen and cook things that take a little bit longer.  This is a new recipe that I came up with before Christmas.  I think what makes this dish is the sauce that is made from the juices that the duck is cooked in.  The sauce has a lovely deep flavour which is lifted by a little redcurrant jelly that complements the duck nicely.  I tend to serve the duck with either mashed potato or chips so that you can really soak up the juices.

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Duck in a rich red wine sauce (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 duck (roughly 1.5kg in weight, with giblets)
  • 2 glasses of red wine
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  • ½ glass water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into chunks (optional)
  • seasoning
  • 150ml duck stock (see guidelines to making a stock below)
  • 2-3tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 2tsp corn flour (mixed in a little water to form a paste)

Steps:

1.  Prepare your duck by removing the wings and the giblets.  (Use the wings and giblets to make a stock following the guidelines below).

2.  Place the duck in a large casserole pan along with the wine, water, bay leaves, thyme, juniper berries and celery.  Season well and then place in a preheat oven at 170C fan for 1 hour.

3.  After an hour, remove the duck from the casserole dish, cover with tin foil and allow to rest in warm place for 15 minutes whilst you make the sauce.

4.  Pass the juices from the casserole dish through a sieve to remove the celery and any other bits and pieces; then place in a saucepan on a high heat.

5.  Add the duck stock and the redcurrant jelly and bring to the boil.

6.  After about 5 minutes add the corn flour paste, stirring continuously so that you have a smooth sauce, taste and add more stock or redcurrant jelly as required.  Serve.

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Guidelines to making a basic stock

It is incredibly simple to make any meat stock for use in a soup, risotto, pie, gravy etc. Stocks can be frozen so are worth making even if you can’t use them straightway.  So, make sure you save the bones after a roast.

There is no right or wrong way for making a good stock. Below are merely the guidelines on how to make a basic stock which you can vary according to what vegetables you have lying around.

Ingredients

  • Bones and any scraps of meat left over (if making the stock after a roast) or giblets and wings (from a duck, chicken, turkey etc.)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and cut into 1” pieces)
  • 1 onion (cut in half)
  • 1 celery stick (cut into 1” pieces)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small bunch of thyme
  • seasoning
  • water (enough to cover the bones)

Steps:

1. Place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan, add enough water so that the bones are covered then cover with a lid.

2.  Cook the stock on a medium heat for at least an hour but preferably 2+hours in order for your stock to have a lovely deep flavour before passing it through a sieve to remove any bits before using.  (Allow to cool completely if you are freezing the stock).

Turkey lasagne with bacon, broccoli and leeks…

Got leftover turkey? Christmas is fast approaching and there is always the question of what to make with the leftover turkey.  Pies and curries are always a good option but I have been trying to devise something a little bit different and came up with the idea of using festive flavours in a lasagne and I promise you it works well!

The recipe below can be made using cooked or uncooked turkey and you could even substitute the lardons for leftover ham…  The lasagne combines the flavours of a good pie with a creamy white sauce and a delicious cheese topping.    There is no need to follow the recipe absolutely when making this lasagne. If you have other leftover vegetables that you think would work well in it – for example carrots or sweet potatoes – just throw them in and use any leftover gravy in place of the stock cube and water.

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Turkey lasagne with bacon, broccoli and leeks

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

  • 8-10 lasagne sheets

For the meat filling:

  • 300g of turkey breast, cooked or uncooked (cut into slices – if using uncooked turkey, then lightly dust the meat with some seasoned flour)
  • 100g lardons
  • 2 mushrooms (cut into chunks)
  • ¾ heads of broccoli (cut into chunks)
  • 2 small leeks (sliced)
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 100ml water
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

For the white sauce:

  • 1pt milk
  • 30g butter
  • 1 handful of plain flour
  • A pinch of all spice
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped leeks
  • pepper (for seasoning)

For the topping:

  • 25g hard cheese (e.g. Emmental, Cheddar and/or Red Leicester)

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Step 1 – prepare the meat filling

  • If you using uncooked turkey, fry it off in a little oil with the lardons and thyme on a medium heat.
  • Add the leeks and mushrooms (if you are using cooked turkey then add it now) – cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • DSC_0677Crumble over the stock cube and season then, add the water then cover and allow to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the broccoli pieces, remove from the heat and set to one side whilst you make the white sauce.

Step 2 – prepare the cheese sauce

  • Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan.
  • DSC_0679Add the flour and make a thick paste.
  • Slowly add the milk a little at a time, stirring/whisking continuously to avoid lumps.
  • Add the allspice, thyme, leeks and season with pepper.  Continue stirring/whisking until the sauce has thickened.

Step 3 – make up your lasagne

  • Soak the lasagne sheets in warm water for a minute or so.DSC_0681
  • Take a large oven proof dish and make up the lasagne in the following order:

  1. Meat sauce
  2. Lasagne sheets
  3. Meat sauce
  4. Lasagne sheets
  5. Cheese sauce
  6. Topping – scatter over the cheese

Step 4 – cook

  • Place in oven and bake at 180C fan for 25-30 minutes.
  • Serve. 

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Classic Lasagne

The weather is truly miserable at the moment, it is cold and rainy and it doesn’t make me want to go outside very much.  It is the perfect weather for enjoying a lasagne, another of my comfort foods.  The recipe below is our family recipe that I have been using for years.  It is everything you want from a lasagne – a meat sauce between layers of pasta and a creamy cheese sauce.  For some reason lasagne reminds me of my university days. I think this is because it is an affordable dinner party option that was always comforting and guaranteed to go down well!

Whilst I have been living in France I have been experiencing issues with the pasta bought locally not cooking properly which I think this is down to it containing a lot of starch.  Consequently, I have had to soak the pasta sheets before putting them in the lasagne rather than just putting them under the tap which I would normally do, which seems to have resolved the problem of excess starch.

As a family we tend to enjoy the lasagne with a big tomato and red pepper salad or coleslaw.  If I am feeling particularly indulgent I sometimes serve garlic bread as well.

 

Classic Lasagne

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

  • 12-16 lasagne sheets

For the meat sauce:

  • 300g minced beef
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 500ml passata (or tin of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1tsp mixed herbs
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

For the topping:

  • 25g hard cheese (e.g. emmental or cheddar)
  • freshly grated nutmeg
For the cheese sauce:

  • 1pt milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1 handful of plain flour
  • ½tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
  • pepper (for seasoning)
  • 75g hard cheese (e.g. emmental or cheddar)

 

Steps:


Step 1 – prepare the meat sauce:

  • Place the onions and garlic in a frying pan with a little oil, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the meat and allow it to brown off.
  • Once the meat has browned off add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Step 2 – prepare the cheese sauce:

  • Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan.
  • Add the flour and make a thick paste.
  • Slowly add the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously to avoid lumps.
  • Add the nutmeg and season with pepper.
  • Once the sauce has thickened slightly add the cheese and stir until it is melted.

Step 3 – make up your lasagne:

  • Soak the lasagne sheets in warm water for a minute or so to remove some of the starch and allow them to soften slightly.
  • Take a large oven proof dish and make up the lasagne in the following order:
  1. Meat sauce
  2. Lasagne sheets
  3. Meat sauce
  4. Cheese sauce
  5. Lasagne sheets
  6. Meat sauce
  7. Cheese sauce
  8. Topping – scatter over the cheese and grate over some nutmeg.

Step 4 – cook:

  • Place in oven and bake at 180C fan for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with coleslaw, a salad and/or garlic bread.  Enjoy!

 

Homemade pesto and a quick pesto pasta

On Monday we had our first frost.  My heart sank when I stepped outside and saw that our basil plant was not looking at all happy.  I thought we had lost it all, but as I cut away the bits that had been most effected I realised about a third of the plant had survived.  So there was no other choice than to harvest the leaves and make something with them.

Earlier in the year we picked, shelled and froze a couple of kilos of hazelnuts, so I decided to see how they would work in a pesto rather than the normal pine nuts.  I had no idea how easy it was to make pesto before yesterday provided you have a food processor.  I have decided it is definitely something that I am going to try to make more often when I have the herbs available as it tasted so much better than the shop bought ones I normally get.

I tried out the pesto in a pasta dish that I knocked together last night using a few bits and bobs I found in the fridge.  It seemed to bring all of the flavours together and wasn’t at all overpowering.  Whilst the pesto worked well with the pasta, I am looking forward to seeing how it works as a marinade with lamb in the next couple of weeks.

 

Homemade Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 50g walnuts
  • 75g parmesan
  • 50g basil leaves
  • 25g parsley
  • 10-15 chive stalks
  • wine glass of olive oil (and more for preserving)
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Place the nuts in a food processor and blitz until they become crumbs.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blitz until you have the consistency you are looking for.  Add a little more olive oil if the mix is too dry and make sure you taste it to see if it needs more seasoning.

3.  Store your pesto in a sterilized jam jar, cover with some olive oil and keep in your fridge.

 

Quick Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:

  • pasta (75g-100g per person)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 50g lardons
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 mushroom (diced)
  • handful of green beans (cut into 1” pieces)
  • 2tbsp homemade pesto
  • olive oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Cook the pasta according to the instructions whilst you are preparing the other ingredients.

2.  Cook the onions and lardons in a saucepan with a little oil until the onions are soft.

3.  Add the chorizo, pepper, mushroom and beans and cook for 5-7 minutes.


   

4.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the saucepan along with the pesto and stir until everything is combined.  Then serve.

 

 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

I have been thinking about wanting to make this recipe for a while.  However, the thing that has been holding me from making it is the fact that the Old Man does not like spinach.  This is a slight problem when it is the main ingredient.  So I had to come up with an idea that made the meal appealing to him.  Then it dawned on me that perhaps adding Chorizo might distract him sufficiently enough to get him to try it.  The idea worked better than I could have ever hoped, the Old Man actually gave the pasta the thumbs up!  Success!

I am not going to try and disguise the fact that this recipe involves a lot of ingredients but my advice is to be methodical when you approach it and it will all come together.  I got a little bit of help when I was piping the filling into the cannelloni shells as it made it a lot easier and less messy!

This recipe involves using a tomato puree for the base layer.  I had made tomato puree from scratch a couple of weeks ago when we were inundated with tomatoes, so I used it in this recipe.  Making the puree from scratch was time consuming and I am not altogether sure it was that cost effective; despite the fact it tasted good.  (For those of you who are interested I have included my recipe for tomato puree at the end.)

 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5 people)

Base:

  • 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato pesto
  • 20-25 cherry tomatoes (halved)

Pasta and Filling:

  • 18-20 cannelloni shells
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 400g fresh spinach leaves (washed)
  • 250g ricotta
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

Sauce:

  • 1 ½ oz butter
  • handful plain flour
  • 1pt milk
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • Seasoning

Topping:

  • handful of grated cheese (emmental or cheddar)
  • black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 180C fan.

2.  Spread the ingredients for the “base” on the bottom of a large ovenproof dish (I used a dish that was 20cmx30cm). 

3.  Now prepare the filling for your pasta.  Place the onions, garlic, chorizo, thyme and oil in a large saucepan and allow to soften.

4.  Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt down.

5.  Place the ingredients from the pan, the ricotta and seasoning into a food processor and blitz until the spinach is broken down and the filling is fairly smooth.

    

6.  Place the filling into a piping bag (I used a freezer bag that I had cut one corner off).

7.  Dunk each cannelloni shell into a bowl of water before piping in some of the filling. (It was at this stage I found it helpful to have an extra pair of hands).

8.  Place the filled shells on top of the base.

9.  Now you need to make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until you have a paste.

10.  Slowly add your milk stirring continuously so that you have a smooth lump free sauce.

11.  Add the nutmeg and season well.

12.  Once your sauce has thickened slightly pour over your pasta (if you are worried about it being too thick add a little more milk to your sauce).

   

13.  Finally, scatter over the toppings before placing in the oven and cooking for 30-35 minutes.

14.  I would recommend eating this with a freshly made green or tomato salad. Enjoy!

 

 

Tomato Puree

Ingredients:

  • 15-20 large tomatoes
  • a glug of olive oil (for cooking with and preserving with)
  • salt

Steps:

1.  Wash the tomatoes well, then remove the core and as many of the seeds as possible.

2.  Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large saucepan with some olive oil, cook on a low heat for 30-45 minutes.

3.  Pass the tomatoes through a sieve into a deep roasting tray.

4.  Season with salt, add another glug of oil and place in an oven that you have preheated to 160C Fan for 2-3hrs until it is reduced, stirring occasionally.

5. Place in a sterilized pot and cover with some more olive oil.