One of the staple dishes in our kitchen is a really simple tomato sauce. I make a batch almost fortnightly and it’s used in a few different ways, from spaghetti and meatballs, in lasagne, with baked vegetable dishes and topping pizzas, it’s so simple to do and the basis of so many meals it is one of the first things I’ll be teaching the boy to cook. Using some of good quality tinned tomatoes, I knocked up a batch of sauce for a quick and simple meal this week.
Versatile Tomato Sauce
1 large onion (or two small ones) finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 bottle of passata
1 pod of tomato purée
1 teaspoon of oregano or mixed herbs
1 teaspoon of pesto, tomato pesto if you have it (optional)
Salt & pepper
1. In a frying pan heat up a splosh of olive oil (about a tablespoon) and gently soften your finely chopped onion. Stir frequently until soft and then add your crushed garlic and warm through for a few minutes, don’t let it burn or it’ll go bitter.
2. Once your onion is soft, add the passata and warm through. While it’s bubbling away gently, add the tomato purée, herbs, pesto (optional) and salt and pepper. To balance out any bitterness from the tomato add a good pinch of sugar to taste.
3. Leave to simmer gently for ten minutes or so, stirring frequently.
To serve as I have done, toss through some cooked spaghetti and serve with meatballs and a sprinkle of cheese. Alternatively layer into your lasagne, or cook for longer until it thickens a bit more and use as a pizza topping.
This tomato sauce is incredibly versatile and I know that even if I serve it just with some plain pasta it will be a meal the small boy will devour in one sitting. As it’s made from tomatoes it is one of his five a day and is probably healthier than what I could buy in a jar.
I like to use good quality passata and purée where I can, you can tell by the colour, texture and flavour of the raw ingredient that anything you make with them will be tasty.
My beautiful son is part Armenian. I have no hint of interesting ancestry on my side of the family, so I have wholeheartedly embraced some parts of Armenian culture to help him keep in touch with some of his roots. If I’m honest it’s mostly the bits which involve food.
Armenian food is very Mediterranean, you can find very similar food in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. They do beautiful things with vegetables, so I’m sharing my favourite vegetarian Armenian recipe Imam Bayildi, I hope you like it.
Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. It is simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables are essential and good quality tinned tomatoes are ideal, full of flavour and a little does go a long way.
This recipe serves four.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red, but a white onion works too)
2 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper, finely diced
Half a can of good quality tinned tomatoes
Big handful of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper
1. Cut the top off each aubergine, slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving an aubergine boat, leave a little of the aubergine flesh around the skin so it can help retain its structural integrity while in the oven. Griddle the aubergine halves on a high heat until they have a little bit of char, then put in a baking dish so they are snuggled up close to each other, this will help them keep their shape in the oven.
2. Chop up the aubergine flesh and fry gently in the olive oil, while that is cooking (stir frequently) chop and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook until they are all soft and then add your crushed garlic cloves and half a tin of good quality chopped tomatoes.
3. Season well and add your sugar, cook and stir regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated and all of the vegetables are cooked and soft. Stir through the chopped parsley (reserving a small amount to garnish with later).
3. Carefully spoon the tomato and vegetable mixture into the aubergine skins. Add two tablespoons of water to the baking dish to help the aubergines to cook. Bake for 30 minutes at 200c.
4. Once cooked serve with salad, rice or bulgar wheat, maybe some pitta bread.
We love Imam Bayildi, it’s a regular meal for us; really flavoursome and healthy as well as being a traditional Armenian meal. If you enjoy aubergines, you might also really like this Armenian Ikra recipe.