The Ultimate Tomato Sauce

If there’s ever a time for comfort food it's when the seasons shift from autumn to winter. This thick, scarlet red sauce is a useful addition to any fridge but particularly one that that needs to make meatballs, bolognaise, lasagne or ‘saucy pasta’ at any point during the week.
Double the quantities if you have a pan large enough, the sauce keeps well and I promise you’ll find it useful.

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 tbsp. tomato puree
2 x 400g tins good quality chopped tomatoes
200ml vegetable stock
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. soft brown sugar

1. Start by making the rich tomato sauce: heat 3 tbsp. of the oil in a frying pan, over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and soften over a gentle heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for a couple more minutes. Stir through the tomato puree then pour over the tinned tomatoes and stock, season with salt and add the sugar. Stir well and then simmer gently uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is lovely and thick.


Broad bean & Ham Hock & Wholegrain Mustard Pie

A thrifty ham hock is the back bone to this recipe and, partnered with cornichons and cream, it equates to pie heaven. The reasurringly creamy filling is encased in fudgy pastry, highly glazed and sprinkled with poppy seeds.


2 ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
220g broad beans, podded weight
1½ tablespoons wholegrain mustard
150ml crème fraîche
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
4 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
1 tablespoon plain flour
½ small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
300ml cider
1 medium egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

175g plain flour
Tiny pinch of salt
150g butter, diced
90ml soured cream
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

You will need a 26cm pie dish

1 Place the ham hocks, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pan. Cover generously with cold water and bring to a steamy simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 3 hours until tender and falling apart. Keep your eye on the water levels and top up every so often, as needed. Once the ham hocks are cooked, remove from the pan. Separate the meat from the bone – I find it easiest to use your hands. Pull away large chunks of the meat, roughly chop and set aside. You need about 500g of cooked ham hock.

2 Bring a second pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beans and simmer for 5–6 minutes, until just tender. Drain and set aside.

3 Make the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until the butter is fully incorporated through the flour. Alternatively, put in a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Then add the soured cream and pulse for 2–3 seconds or stir by hand until just mixed. Shape into a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

4 Select an enormous bowl and combine the cooked ham, broad beans, mustard, crème fraîche, coriander seeds, cornichons, flour and chopped parsley. Pour the cider into a small saucepan over a medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Cool slightly before adding to the ham hock mixture. Season to taste, remembering that the ham is salty.

5 Empty the filling into a pie dish and brush the edge of the dish with a little beaten egg. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and place over the filling. Crimp the edges of the pastry to secure it to the edge of the dish, brush the surface with more beaten egg and chill for a further 30 minutes.

6 Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.

7 Remove the pie from the fridge, glaze again with egg and scatter with poppy seeds. Transfer to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes until the pastry is golden and you can just see the filling bubbling. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving in slices.

TIP You can also use 200g dried broad beans, soaked overnight. Simply, place the broad beans in a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil over a high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 25–30 minutes or until the broad beans are al dente.


Baby Rosabella

Forgive my slight pause from blogging but I assure you it is for good reason. Baby Rosabella was born in late December and, naturally, has been needing a whole lot of love and milk ;)