At this time of year when summer starts hitting her stride, we start preparing for her bounty! We waited expectantly, watched the rains, bemoaned the hails and now we want some just reward for all our dedicated input, right? If only things were that simple. What does seem to happen though, is certain crops literally start bursting at the seams, no matter how much you pick to eat and give away, there just always seems to be more. Our grannies had the right idea about domestic organization – frugality can go a long way, not only to save a budget but also to bring the joys of summer onto your table on a bleak winter’s day. Tomato sauce or ketchup has become synonymous with junk food, yet when I watched a liitle doccie on its origins, I became fascinated by the idea that so many store cupboard staples we take for granted, have their roots firmly planted in sensible, healthful, homemade tradition. Ketchup, as it is apparently accurately called, is one such item. Although All Gold is an SA icon and Heinz champions stateside, there is something altogether delicious about the homemade stuff. It is different undoubtedly, but also special, which is not something you hear people say about tomato sauce. At this time of year I relish the opportunity to prepare food in advance that I know is going to make life easier and more delicious for an impromptu meal or for one of the festive season showstoppers and after making this ketchup once, it has remained firmly placed in the list of constant requests. So for everyone’s sake, here is the recipe. It is a little fiddly (not difficult!), but trust me, well worth it. There are many recipes out there to try, if you have an obsession with cookbooks as I have, but this one comes from Jamie Oliver and I think it is scrummy! If you have beautiful yellow or green tomatoes – use them and substitute for the cherry/plums and the tinned ones too. You could have a rainbow collection!
1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
½ bulb fennel, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1Tbl coriander seeds
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1kg fresh tomatoes of choice, chopped
500g cherry or plum tomatoes
500g tinned tomatoes
200ml red wine vinegar
70g soft brown sugar
Place all the veggies in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a big splash of olive oil and the ginger, garlic, chilli, basil stalks, coriander seeds and cloves. Season lightly. Cook gently for 10-15mins until softened, stirring occasionally. Add ALL the tomatoes and 350ml cold water. Bring to the boil, simmer gently until reduced by half. Add basil leaves, then blend and push through sieve twice, to make it smooth and shiny. Pour the sauce into a clean pan on a low heat, add vinegar and sugar and simmer until it reduces and thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup. Now season to taste. spoon through a sterilised funnel into sterilised bottles or jars. Seal tightly, place in the fridge until needed, up to six months.
The list of things to enjoy this with is almost endless, it is good enough to enjoy on its own! Have a jar of this to add some shazazzle to a braai or a cheese sandwich. Whatever you do, take inspiration to make something delicious from Nature’s bounty, turning glut into gastronomic glory. Enjoy!