Thursday, 30 October 2014

Passata Time.

It's the time of the year when mum phones and says 'Mellie, the tomatoes are ready, let's make passata together'. It fills me with excitement and shoulders back pride. Follow on the tradition of making passata with my beautiful inspirational mum is something we do together annually. The rain was pounding down and the wind was tearing through the fields so we decided to set up camp in one of my dads sheds with the doors wide open.

This has to be an outdoor job due to the volume of voluptuous, fragrant and juicy tomatoes we use and not forgetting the size of the huge pans. Making passata is an annual treat that I have the chance to make with mum, something to treasure really. We tend to chatter and put the world to rights! Mum and I use the entire crop of dads tomatoes, wash, prepare them and then sit stirring them for around for four to five quiet hours. I was told by Rocco my eldest son that we looked like witches stirring a cauldron. I think my husband put him up to that comment...........cackle..............

In a huge over sized pan, we fill it with washed and quartered tomatoes, removing any blemishes, and cook them down for 2 hours, stirring on a medium heat. You must ensure the tomatoes do not catch on the bottom and burn. After a couple of hours I would ladled them through the passata machine, my favourite job.

Tomatoes ready to start cooking down for a minimum of two hours.

This passata machine is 35 years old and was bought back from Italy when I was just one, a baby in arms. This is what we always use, it's a manual machine with a turn handle, pulp comes out of the center and goes back into the pan and the skin and seeds get discarded to one side. My parents were given an electric passata machine a few years back but as yet have shied away from it, why, I'm not so sure. Because its something new or is it tradition that keeps pulling them back to the La Rossa machine.

Tomatoes now ready to reduce.

Here the un-required pulp is discarded, removing the seeds and skin then the smooth pulp and tomato juice waterfalls into the second large sauce pan to be reduced for a further three hours. Now a generous amount of salt would be added...............nothing else.

Into sterilised jars fragrant basil from my dads allotment would be pushed in with normally my children's fingers. The basil adds flavour, fragrance, depth and colour.

Reduced tomatoes are ladled into the jars and sealed immediately.

Then the passata is put to bed for around 3-4 days , wrapped in blankets and left to cool on its own. The best passata comes from Rocco and Solidea's farm, mum and dad I can't wait until next year...........

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Spinach pesto...

Everyone loves pesto, whether it’s simply spooned through trofie pasta, stirred into a risotto, seductively drizzled over a tomato and fresh burrata salad starter, used as a topping on toasted bread or spooned through potato gnocchi, the uses are truly endless. 
There are many combinations and variations of pesto. From a delicious fragrant basil pesto to a roasted pepper pesto, nettle pesto, asparagus pesto and beyond. This spinach pesto is a favourite of mine. I normally make a medium sized kilner jar full and once made top with olive oil before placing it into the fridge. This pesto will keep for up to a month, no double dipping though!!  

200g freshly washed and dried spinach
60g pine nuts un-toasted
1 large clove garlic
60g parmesan
Twist of salt and pepper
Olive oil 80ml

1. Into a food processor add the spinach, pine-nuts, peeled garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper. 
2. Blitz for 30 seconds.
3. Pour in half of the oil and blitz for a further 30 seconds. Add the remaining oil until you have achieved the perfect pesto, a loose dropping consistency would be ideal.
Spoon into a sterilised jar and top with a little olive oil.