Preservative Free Cooking

Last week I couldn’t resist picking up and purchasing the woman’s weekly vegetarian cookbook. The first vegetarian cook book I ever bought at sixteen was the woman’s weekly one. Much has changed since I was sixteen, nice big glossy photos, lots of internationally inspired herbs and spices, and a brilliant array of  grains and pulses being used. Also it appears that more thought of vegetarian protein has gone into many of the recipes.  One thing that has stayed the same though is that  the recipes all look divine and I can imagine they will taste delicious, that’s wonderful and I look forward to trying out many of them. The other thing I noticed that also hasn't  changed is many of the recipes are still suggesting  you use cans of tomatoes, bottles of sauce laden with preservatives and packed with sugar, pre-made dips etc.

I know buying cans of tomatoes may seem a much quicker option but I really don’t agree, by the time I have found my can opener in my kitchen (it rarely gets used) or found a butter knife to pry open the ring pull I could have cut up 400g worth of tomatoes to make my pasta sauce.  Or by the time I have located the jar of harrisa at the back of the fridge or the one I thought I had bought and popped in the pantry somewhere, I could have placed the capsicum, chillies, garlic and spices in my food processor to make my harrisa fresh.

I remember being baffled by the suggestion of buying a can of tomatoes to make a lasagna when I first bought the book at the age of sixteen.  My mum had always used fresh tomatoes to make her pasta sauce and we had chopped away with her, just enjoying being in her company.

Years ago I used to buy jars of curry paste and really enjoyed the flavour that those curries had. Then at the age twenty two, studying to be a primary school teacher, I took myself off to the CSIRO to do some research for a science assignment I was doing and picked up an information pack on preservatives and colourings.  I was horrified by what these numbers all meant and why they were being put into food. A pre-made curry paste was never seen in my pantry again.   At first it was difficult to make a curry taste as good as the one I had made with the shop bought curry paste but over time my taste buds adjusted and I really appreciated the more subtle flavours of my own curries made from fresh.

It’s similar to when I make pasta sauces, I really don’t have the energy to skin tomatoes like my beautiful Italian friends do so my pasta sauces will be more textural than the ones you can buy in jars, but what I do get from making freshly made pasta sauce is a wonderful satisfaction that I know exactly what is in my meal that night and a gooey feeling inside that I have created a very simple meal all by myself.  Also remembering the feeling I got as a child of enjoying the family togetherness of cooking as a team from scratch.

Over the last weekend I catered for a beautiful group of women who many have a commitment to cook without preservatives.  A few of them shared that they found it quite daunting and I hope I helped in giving a few tips.  I really believe once they make the commitment they will reap in the benefits and actually find it a lot easier than they had anticipated.  I know from my own experience that it is really the best thing to do for your health and your sense of well being, for the taste of your food, for gaining a sense of complete cooking satisfaction, that once you make the leap there will be no turning back.  Your meals will remain preservative free for ever.  Off to the farmers market now to pick up some lovely vine ripened tomatoes.

Quick and easy pasta sauce recipe

1 kg fresh vine ripened tomatoes, cut into half and then each half into roughly 8 pieces

a good glug of cold pressed olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced

1 hot chili finely chopped (optional)

1 big handful of organic basil leaves roughly torn

1 bunch of blanched silverbeet finely chopped (this is totally optional- i just add it as I love silverbeet and am always on the look out for extra protein)

sea salt

In a frying pan slightly heat the olive oil, then add the minced garlic and tomatoes, sauté for a few minutes or until the tomatoes start breaking down.  Add the salt and chili if using and  then pop a lid on the pan and let cook away on a moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir the tomatoes for a further 5 minutes, pop in the basil and by this time your tomatoes should have broken down to make a delicious rustic looking pasta sauce.  If you are using the silverbeet add it now and heat through.  This sauce is lovely with past of course and with millet and steamed veg.

Categories:Mains Sauce/Dips

Tags:pasta sauce tomatoes

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