Friday, 28 September 2012

Tomato sauce and blackberry vodka...

Seeing red: Today's inspiration was some tomatoes and peppers going squishy in the fruit bowl and half a tin of chopped tomatoes in the fridge.  While I cooked, Jamie Oliver was talking about his new book of meals in 15 minutes, the proof of which was a toasted cheese sandwich cooked live on radio!

Soon to be tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

Chop a couple of onions and cook gently in some olive oil (mine was chilli oil) until transparent. Add a chopped pepper, chopped fresh tomatoes and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, put the lid on the pan and let them cook on a very low heat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Add the tinned tomatoes and a teaspoon or 2 of sugar, give it a good stir, replace the lid and cook until the peppers are soft.  If it's looking a bit watery then take the lid off and let it cook a bit longer.  Blend thoroughly so that children cannot spot tomato seeds, chunks of actual vegetable or bits of skin.  Add herbs, ricotta or mascarpone, pieces of cooked bacon, prawns etc, as desired and stir through pasta.  It can also be used as a base for spaghetti bolognese if you are in the mood for meat.

I serve pasta with plenty of finely grated Grana Padano cheese - the same taste as Parmesan but made with skimmed milk, and slightly cheaper.  Win-win!

Last chance for blackberries

Depending on who you believe, blackberries can be picked until either the 1st or 10th October. Old wives will tell you that the devil spits (or wees) on them after this.  Be prepared to use them quickly, or put them straight in the freezer.  Handfuls of frozen blackberries are great for adding to crumbles and muffins - or use them in place of raspberries in any recipe.  Fresh fruit can be turned into jam, compote, or blackberry vodka.

Blackberry compote

Blackberries, sugar and a couple of squeezes of lemon cooked slowly in a pan until the fruit disintegrates.  Cool and serve with ice cream or yogurt.

Blackberry vodka

Put 600g blackberries and 200g caster sugar into a large bottle/jar and pour over 1 litre of cheap vodka. Shake it up a bit until the sugar starts dissolving, then put it in a cool dark place and shake once a week for the next 3 months.  Strain and re-bottle, chucking away the berries.  If you get it going this weekend you could be using it at Christmas - gifted in pretty bottles, swigged while you sweat over a large-breasted bird, or sloshed into Granny's Ribena...  And one of your 5-a-day too!

Pear and plum crumble in a bowl with spoon
Pear and plum crumble

Yesterday's crumble - pear and plum - ready to eat when the juices have bubbled up over the edges of the crumble and the top is golden brown.


  1. Jo gave me a bottle of raspberry gin last year that was gorg. When mixed with tonic it was a pretty fuschia pink....very festive. Will do the same with wee free blackberries. I also heard jamie this morning....guacamole sounded nice though. My dinner tonight is jacket potatoes, baked beans and birds eye cod in batter...... Gourmet fare!

  2. Mmmm, raspberry gin sounds fabulous - with or without tonic! BE cod in batter is delicious - but fresh fish is so much quicker to cook. If only the children would eat it!