Versatile Tomato Sauce

Anyone who ever eats in my house asks where I got the sauce, and when I say it’s my own they always ask for the recipe, so I thought I would share it here too. I’ve been making it for years and it’s popular with family and friends. It differs from other sauces in that there are no onions in it. I can’t bear those horrible, limp, slithery, slimy, smelly things; they give vegetables a bad name. However, since this is a versatile sauced, you may add them – if you must. I get at least four dinners out of this recipe.

1 tin of tomatoes

Small tin/carton tomato purée

Mushrooms – chopped

Peppers – chopped


Fresh Garlic and Ginger – finely chopped (lots)

A shake of Turmeric, Cajun Spice, Cumin

A shake of chili flakes

A shake of Oregano

Salt and Pepper

A glass of red wine, and some water if necessary

That’s the basic recipe, then I add:

Diced beef or chicken, or, for a vegetarian change, a tin of chick peas and a tin of beans (any kind)

Crumbled Feta cheese to finish it off.

To begin:

Heat some coconut oil in a large saucepan, add the Garlic and Ginger and fry for a minute or so. Then add the spices, herbs and chili flakes.

After a few mins, when the scents are released, add the tin of tomatoes and the purée and stir all together.

Add the chopped vegetables and leave to simmer for twenty minutes.

Add the beef, chicken, or legumes.

Turn the heat down and leave to simmer all day (nearly)

Sometimes I turn it all into a casserole dish and stick it in the oven for hours at a low heat. You don’t have to think about it again until you’re ready to eat.

That’s it. When ready to serve, sprinkle the crumbled cheese on top. This adds a tang and creaminess to the dish. You can makes any changes you like to the basic recipe, different vegetables, radishes or courgettes maybe.

You can serve it with rice or pasta or crusty bread. (I made pretzel bread from Carol’s recipe on Sally’s Smorgasbord – it turned out really, really good.)

If any of you try this I hope you will let me know how it turned out. Bon appetit!

(Tuna would be good too)


Ginger Cake Recipe | An Easy One.

I made this cake yesterday; a recipe I hadn’t used for ages. The cake turns out very soft, a bit crumbly, and totally delicious. As you can see from the photograph here, I’m about to cut myself a (huge) slice and have it with lovely coffee.

1and 1/4 cups of spelt (or white) flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup of buttermilk

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup olive oil

1 dsp honey

1 beaten egg

Mix all the dry ingredients together

Mix all the wet ingredients together

Mix all together until well combined

Put into a greased/lined loaf tin – I just brush with olive oil

Oven 180 degrees for 30 mins

Cool in a damp tea towel on a wire rack.

Serve on its own, or warmed and topped with plain yogurt – and try not to eat it all at once!

For a change, you can replace the spices with crushed walnuts and 2 dsp powdered coffee.

Pretzel Bread

On Sally’s Smorgasbord, I always read Carol Taylor’s recipes with great interest, and as a bread lover, I was tempted to have a go myself when I read the recipe for pretzel bread. So, yesterday, I freed up my afternoon and made the bread. It’s not complicated but there are a lot of parts to it which made it really fun to do. And I was truly amazed as how it turned out. Totally delicious, crispy crust, and soft and chewy inside with a lovely taste. It will be a staple in my kitchen now. So I just had to share my baking day here.

(As I don’t have a family-size saucepan any more, I halved the recipe and then halved again. I put one half in the freezer – hope it’s ok in there. I’m adding a link here to the original post. Perhaps someone else might have a go?)

Smorgasbord Food Column – Carol Taylor’s Green Kitchen -April 2021 – #Pretzel Bread, #Onions, #TomatoKetchup, #Japanese Wood Production. ‹ Smorgasbord Blog Magazine ‹ Reader —

Brown Bread Recipe

Yesterday, it was raining and very windy so I decided to forgo the afternoon walk and make bread instead. I make this brown bread very often but this time I added treacle and raisins for a change.

2 cups of wholewheat flour

1 cup of strong white flour

1/2 cup porridge oats

1/2 cup wheat bran (or germ)

1and 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Raisins, if using

1 tblsp honey or treacle

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk

Oven to 190 degrees celsius

All the dry ingredients into a large bow, mix well, add the honey or treacle and the buttermilk and mix all together by hand until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto floured worktop and knead for half a minute or so the shape into a round and place on floured baking tray. Cut a cross quite deeply with a knife and put into the oven for 20 minutes, then turn oven down to 160 degrees and cook for another 20 mins. Test with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done. The knife should come out clean. Wrap in a damp tea towel and cool on a wire tray.

I always cut a piece off while it’s still warm and butter it. Heaven!

Ghosts of Christmas Past

This evening I put up my little tree and switched on the fairy lights: I wrapped the presents and set them round about. And then I sat alone and thought about how Christmas will be this year. Generally, on Christmas Day we are all split up around in-laws and out-laws and this year will be no different. But always, on St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) everyone comes here for blue cheese and ham and oatcakes, and mince pies with Bailey’s or cream. They bring their presents and we have an orgy of present opening with the grandchildren handing them out. I don’t know how it will work this year but it will surely be different. I was a bit sad until I shook myself and poured a glass of good red wine. What have I to complain about? I have shelter, warmth, and food. My family are all healthy and secure.

What about the poor souls shivering on the Halfpenny Bridge (in Dublin) with their plastic cups held out for change – which no one has these days when shops prefer card payments. How do they feel, watching crowds passing up and down, laden with bags of food and drink and Christmas goodies? They look so cold and ill. Druggies, people say, dismissing them. I don’t care if they are drug addicts or alcoholics; I do not blame them or look down on them. Why should I? How could I? Addiction is a terrible scourge, and no one would choose to live like that; they just end up that way.

Our government has just awarded some of its politicians a raise; one of them said they were legally obliged to do so.

A Review: The Three Fat Women of Antibes by Somerset Maugham

Does anyone read Somerset Maugham any more? I don’t think so; my own young ‘uns don’t for sure. Two of his novels are terrific – Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge, both made into successful movies. But his short stories are even better, wonderfully exotic, full of heat and colour, and cocktails – a combination of narrative drive with great dialogue and characters. I should add to my series on “writers no one reads any more” and begin with him. Or Graham Greene anyone? Maurice Walsh? Do young people read War and Peace? David Copperfield?

Anyway . . .

From the opening paragraph of this story the reader is grabbed and held in fascination. Here we have our three fat ladies, three friends who have melded into a tight unit over many years, each one balancing what is missing in the other. They are kind to each other, making allowances and being supportive. Arrow was the youngest, an American twice divorced; Beatrice Richman was a widow and Frances, who was known as Frank, had never married. Maugham explores what happens when an outsider joins this group, how the dynamics are altered and distorted.

“They were great friends, Miss Hickson, Mrs Richman, and Arrow Sutcliffe. It was their fat that had brought them together and bridge that had cemented their alliance.”

The ladies are grossly overweight and every year they go to Carlsbad in Western Bohemia – the Czech Republic now – for a “cure”. They take the waters, follow the strict regime and attend the same doctor. If one of them falls behind with weight loss:

” . . . the culprit went to bed for twenty-four hours and nothing passed her lips but the doctor’s famous vegetable soup which tasted like hot water in which a cabbage had been well rinsed.”

And every year they return, fatter still. This year, Frank decides that they should take a house in Antibes to continue the “cure” on their own for a month or two and Arrow and Beatrice happily agree. They would have their own cook who would continue to feed them boiled eggs and raw tomatoes. But there was one problem – where would they find a fourth for bridge?

“They were fierce, enthusiastic players . . .  they had long arguments over the rival systems. They bombarded one another with Culbertson and Sims.”

However, it so happened that a cousin of Frank’s was newly widowed and making her way to the Riviera. Frank invited Lena Thorne to join them.  She was a bridge player so they would be independent of outsiders and able to continue with their restricted diet.

Lena arrives. Lena is not fat. They sit down to dinner the first evening and Lena immediately asks for a cocktail. Frank, aware of her friends sensibilities says:

“We find alcohol isn’t very good in all this heat.”

But Lena says the heat doesn’t affect her and when dinner arrives – a poached sole, all  alone on a plate – she asks for, and receives, potatoes with plenty of butter. But worse was to follow – Lena asks for fresh bread.

“The grossest indecency would not have fallen on the ears of those three women  with such a shock. Not one of them had eaten bread for ten years.”

And when Beatrice intimates that she will get fat Lena laughs and says that nothing ever makes her fat and she can eat whatever she likes without worry.

“The stony silence that followed this speech was only broken by the entrance of the butler.”

And then of course, Lena was a terrific bridge player, playing with glorious abandon and imagination, ignoring systems and rules. The friends begin to bicker, accusing each other of being vulgar, of sneaking food, and of never losing any weight. Tears and recriminations, but they make up and hug each other and decide that Lena, being a new widow, should have whatever she liked to eat.

“But human nature is weak.”

Beatrice grew “limp and forlorn”; Arrow’s “tender blue eyes acquired a steely glint”, and Frank’s voice “grew raucous.”.

Lena guzzled macaroni and cheese and paté de fois gras with peas swimming in cream; she drank burgundy and champagne. The bridge sessions became bitter and silent, often ending in tears.

“They began to hate one another.”

But Lena’s stay in Antibes came to an end and Lena went on her way, claiming she had had a wonderful holiday. Frank left her to the train, holding herself together, remaining polite until she waved goodbye. But on the way home:

“‘Ouf!” she roared at intervals. “Ouf!'”

Beatrice was the first to give in. Frank found her in a restaurant eating croissants with jam and butter; a jug of cream stood by the coffee pot. Frank hesitated, but only for a second before sinking into a chair. And then Arrow came along. She pretended horror and disgust before seizing a chair herself and calling for the waiter. Course followed course:

“They ate with solemn, ecstatic fervour.”

And Frank said:

“You can say what you like, but the truth is she played a damned rotten game of bridge, really.”