There comes a time in every cook’s life, no matter how competent she thinks she is, when the holes in one’s repertoire start to show.
So it was with me and tomato sauce.
For many years, I’d got by with frying onions, adding garlic, tomatoes and herbs, and cooking it for a bit.
But none of these attempts resulted in the thick, savoury, hyper-tomato flavour that one gets from a simple plate of spaghetti al pomodoro in any half-decent Italian family joint. To be honest, it was all a bit … studenty.
So a couple of years ago, I embarked on a mission to fix this. But it proved much more difficult, with far more experimentation, than expected.
- I tried Diane Seed’s, the ones from her otherwise completely ace book, “The top 100 pasta sauces”. (Surprisingly uninspiring.)
- I tried Delia’s. (Too fussy.)
- I tried Marcella Hazan’s, via Smitten Kitchen. (Delicious, but it’s got so much butter in it that there’s no way it can claim to be an everyday staple.)
- I tried both the recipes from the Silver Spoon. (They were … fine?)
- I tried Felicity Cloake’s allegedly perfect amalgamation of all the greats’ recipes. (It was not.)
- I even tried the Mothership’s, but for some reason, mine never turned out reliably like hers.
Thus, a dead end had been reached.
And so it was that I found myself in Mark and Niki’s kitchen, telling my sorry tale over a cup of chamomile tea.
I’m delighted to introduce Ted’s first appearance in the blog! He went to the farmers market today and found the first asparagus of the year – cause for celebration indeed. He teamed it with the most lovely homemade lovage pesto – his own delicious invention – and made us the most gloriously green spring lunch. I begged him to write up the recipe and he did. Here you go.
What to do with lovage, the world and Joe want to know. It’s a vigorous herb which produces lots of big green fronds that look suspiciously like flat-leaf parsley. Unlike parsley, however, lovage is not mildly-flavoured. Its taste is not unpleasant – like a very strong celery leaf – but I’ve always struggled to know what to do with it as it always seemed like it would overpower most other flavours. So I’ve been left with a herb that grows unchecked and unharvested until it kicks out its flower spike in mid-summer and finally dies back.
Then, while gardening one weekend and looking again at the rapidly expanding lovage, I had a brainwave – what about making all those leaves into pesto? It turns out that other people have had the same idea and there are several recipes already on the web. See here and here.
While it does sound a bit ridiculous to keep puréed, roasted butternut squash stashed in the freezer, it does come in handy at times. Like when your husband stumbles in, as he did last night, exhausted from a really tough day at work and needs some comfort food, stat, but you’d planned some healthy, crunchy, veggie wraps.