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Saturday, 20 November 2010

The things our parents teach us


When I was a teenager my father embarked on a cookery course.   In the years that followed he would routinely take responsibility for producing one of our family's weekend meals.  The kitchen became his exclusive domain for half a day and the recipes he relied on were big on process (think de-boned chicken stuffed with other birds and complicated stuffings).  He made a lot of fresh pasta which he would dry on our laundry rack.  A fine film of semolina would end up covering every surface.  His cooking was an event and his food very different from the excellent meals that my mother fed us each night. 

The difference between how men and women approach cooking is something that Rose Prince acknowledges in her latest book, Kitchenella.  In addition to being beautifully produced and brilliantly written, it contains recipes which are accessible but have just enough quirk to pique one's interest.  I read her recipe for tomato sauce the other day, and was gratified to see that she uses the same method as I do to de-metallicise tinned toms.

The one thing that was transmitted from father to daughter as a result of my father's flirtation with cooking was how to make a delicious tomato sauce, a plain one that can be used to dress pasta or annoint a pizza.  My father has also taught me a lot of other important things through the years (how to hold cutlery appropriately, to avoid using mobile phones on trains if at all possible and generally to be a bit of a snob), but making this tomato sauce always makes me think of him and the food he used to cook for us.

The quantities below make enough for about four servings and can be kept in the fridge in a covered bowl for four or five days.

To make the sauce
One 400g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
Olive oil
1 tspn of sugar
Dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 small knob of butter (optional)

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low-ish heat.  Add the garlic and a pinch of salt.  Fry the garlic gently for a minute or so.  You want it to become fragrant and to cook without browning.  My father hates the taste of burnt garlic.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, oregano and seasoning to the garlic.  Turn up the heat to high.  Fill the empty tomato tin with cold water and add to the pan.  Bring the sauce to the boil, and then turn down the heat.  Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened to your liking.  Add the butter at the end of cooking - it lends a richness to the sauce which is nice if you're going to eat the sauce on its own with spaghetti.


  1. Oh yes... the things they teach us :-) My latest post is about my mother and her rockin' eggrolls. However, I totally love a good homemade tomato sauce. I always make A BUNCH and can them in Mason jars so that I'll have one at the ready when I need it!

  2. Love the simplicity of your sauce recipe.

  3. Thanks so much! The water's the key element of the process and it really works, creating enough volume so that you can cook the tomatoes for long enough for them to become soft and sweet. I loved your creamy banana pudding btw!



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