Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tomato day

Winter is coming to Canberra. The non native deciduous trees are turning yellow, the nights are getting colder, with frost an increasing likelihood and an increasing chance of snow flurries in the mountains.

In the veggie patch the zucchini are almost all done, the last of the peppers and chillis are picked as are the last of the tomatoes (not quite, we probably have about a kilo of green ones left – whether they ripen before the frost or field mice get them is anyone’s guess) and only the pumpkins seem unaffected by the seasonal change.

So what do you do with a bucket of tomatoes?

Like generations of Italian and Greek migrants, decide that today is tomato day where all the ripe tomatoes not wanted immediately for salad, or the tomatoes with scabby bits, can go to make home made passata. Normally in large extended Italian families Tomato day is an event where the whole extended family pools resources and people drink, chat and make passata. (And doubtless traditionally the women did the work and the men harvested the tomatoes and other vegetables).

Well there’s just two of us, so it was all together a more modest affair, but fun.

Get out the largest pan we have, the one that’s only ever used for boiling fruit and making passata. Load in the tomatoes, cover with boiling water to blanch and leave until the skins split and peel. Pour off the boiling water, quench in cold water and then go through the messy business of peeling the tomato skins, and cutting out any thick chewy green cores, or anything else untoward.

Take a brown onion, slice as thin as possible and cook in some olive oil in the bottom of a big pan. Pour in the peeled tomatoes, add a good pile of parsley (it was going to be basil but we forgot to buy any at the market, but we have more parsley than you can shake a stick at in the veggie patch), and crush in six or seven cloves of garlic, and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. A little water and leave to cook gently on the gas for an hour or so.

You could at this stage put it through the blender, but we prefer a rougher texture so we mashed the half stewed tomatoes with a potato masher. At this point it was a little too runny so we thickened it with a small can of good quality organic tomato paste and then back on the gas to cook down until it was consistency of pasta sauce.

Ladle into some recycled jam jars, and hey presto! – our own fresh organic tomato sauce for pasta later on in the year. And what’s more it tastes damned good !

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