Saucy tomatoes: otherwise known as Passata

When I met The Husband, he fended for himself and it wasn’t long before he informed me that a kitchen should never be without onions and tomatoes:  no tasty main meal (other than breakfast), could exclude onions.  Add tomatoes, he maintained, and you have the basis of a good meal.  I didn’t disagree, but over the years, I’ve learned that there are some dishes that don’t need onion.  However, it’s the tomatoes that have my attention, today.  We both love them and have our own associations with their cultivation.  The Husband, when he was beef ranching in Zimbabwe, and had the dubious pleasure, on occasions, of overseeing the harvest of the fruit for the local cannery.  He also talks of the dire gastric consequences, for workers, of eating not just sun-ripe but sun-hot tomatoes.  Talk about learning the hard way….

Brinjal and tomatoes (Moneymaker) from our 2016 crop

Tomatoes and brinjals are all members of the deadly nightshade (Solanum) family, as are potatoes.  You’ll see the similarity looking at their flowers, not the leaves, which are poisonous.

Dad’s tomatoes

I remember my parents (my father, actually), growing tomatoes every year until they moved into a retirement home.

Mum & Dad outside their house in Marshall Street, Grahamstown, a few months before they moved into the retirement home. And the last picture I took of them together.

Dad grew Moneymaker tomatoes from seed.  Rarely anything else.  This variety is a medium-sized, high-yielding tomato with excellent flavour.  They were sewn in June and would germinate in very cold weather – the little seedlings felt the cold.  They’d often be blue.  Really.

Before they retired and living in a small town, they would go home for lunch.  The pinching back and inspection of the annual tomato crop was a lunchtime ritual.  Pinching out the side shoots and staking them ensured tall, robust plants, that would eventually be weighed down with delicious red, sweet fruit.  I remember tomato-filled trays on every surface in the kitchen and sometimes the diningroom.  Now, the same is happening around our home. Tomatoes were never stored in the fridge.  It ruins the flavour.  Tomatoes served from the fridge infuriated The Dad.  Now it infuriates me…

For some reason, Mum didn’t often preserve tomatoes.  Only twice do I remember my mother “doing” anything with them:  once when a hail storm damaged the not-yet-ripe crop, she made green tomato chutney and on another, she made ketchup.

Now me, on the other hand, I’ll bottle anything.  Almost.  It’s a standing joke among some of our friends who warn The Husband that he might end up pickled and/or in a jar!  Besides that, and enjoying tomato, both tinned (bottled) tomatoes and a basic, traditional Italian tomato sauce, are useful and versatile.  Since first making it in about 2014, I make passata whenever I can get my hands on a goodly quantity of tomatoes.  The recipe is courtesy of the Katie Caldesi’s 2012:  Italian Cookery Course (Kyle Books, Great Britain) a gift for my 50th birthday.


Be warned, though, if you embark on this journey: passata takes an enormous quantity of tomatoes and a considerable amount of time to make a relatively small quantity.

My first attempt at making passata in 2014

This year (2021) we have a bumper crop of tomatoes so Passata is back on my agenda.


The basic ingredients, other than tomatoes include garlic, onions, carrots and celery as well as, of course, olive oil.

In terms of quantities, I generally double up the ingredients for the two-step process:

For the first step


200ml olive oil
2,5kg cherry tomatoes (I use both cherries and “ordinary” tomatoes – more often the latter)
200g carrots, diced
200g celery, diced
225g white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
10g salt (which I omitted)
5g freshly ground black pepper

Chuck all these ingredients into an enormous saucepan (my stock pot just coped with the double quantity).  Cook over a medium heat, stirring and squashing the tomatoes to break them up.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 50 minutes.

Caldesi says that the mixture should then be passed through a sieve or passetutto to remove the skins.  I tried that once and it’s seriously time-consuming and tiring.  So, this time round, I followed her alternative suggestion and stuck in the stick blender and puréed the mixture.

For the second step

Additional Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
100g white onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove
salt (which I omitted) and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs of basil
2 tablespoons sugar, as necessary (I find that if I don’t add salt, sugar is often not necessary;  also if the tomatoes are sun-ripened, even off the vine, they are generally sweeter than those that ripen artificially)

Heat the oil in another, large, clean pot (I used the base of my pasta pot) and add the onion.  Stir and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until soft (7 – 10 minutes).  Add the basil and garlic.

Add the puréed mixture and cook until it reaches a sauce-like consistency.  Depending on the water content of the tomatoes, this could happen relatively quickly or could take a while – anything from 10 minutes (I should be so lucky) to an hour.

Pour into sterilised jars and boil again.

The quantities in the recipe should yield about 1,4 kg.  My 5 kg of tomatoes produced 11 jars (and a bit).

You can download a printable version of this recipe here.

Quick pasta supper

I’m thrilled with this batch:  it’s delicious and some of the half-filled jar was used to make us a quick pasta supper that night.  It consisted of homemade pasta, with passata stirred through it, and served with a drizzle of basil pesto and a locally made mature Gouda.

Final word

I first wrote this post in 2014, so not only was it due for an update especially given this year’s fantastic (and currently ongoing) harvest, but I have promised a recipe to Mary – she of the famous flatbreads.  So, Mary, this is for you!

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Aubergines – awful or awesome?

In our house, we call them brinjals, and other people call them melanzane or egg plants. You either like them or you don’t – like a friend’s daughter who, when she was little, announced to her mother

I don’t want to eat allmyjeans!!

It took a while to work out that then little girl, now a beautiful young woman, meant aubergines…

We grow brinjals – the variety we have grown, are beautiful, shiny and a glossy deep, deep purple, and feature in cuisine from all shores of the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Smaller varieties, in other colours, are a feature of Asian food.  We’ve grown them, too, and I’ve served them – stuffed as a vegetarian option for Sunday Supper.

We always have brinjals in the fridge. Our regular Sunday breakfast includes a slice of fried brinjal, something I used to feel somewhat guilty about until Tim Noakes’ flip to a high-fat diet!

I have, subsequently, made some changes to my own diet that echoes those tenets.  That, however, is a story for another time.


Brinjals are really versatile.  One can do much more with them than the relatively popular Melanzane Parmigiana and Moussaka in which they are centre pieces.

I must also mention that brinjals are not as fiddly to cook with as they used to be: most recipes recommend that you salt and allow them to stand for half an hour to remove the bitterness. Modern horticulture has developed brinjals that are no longer bitter. I never salt brinjals anymore, and I don’t recall the last time we had a bitter brinjal.

So, here are two awesome, really quick and easy things to do with aubergines, followed by a special request:


Brinjal, together with courgettes are an integral ingredient of Ratatouille, the dish that famously turned food critic, Anton Ego, into a warm human being, fond of rats…

Its fancy name (pronounced rat-a-too-ee) belies how easy it is to make: sauté a chopped onion in olive oil, followed by one or two cloves of garlic, chopped, a diced robot of bell peppers, brinjal and courgettes (zucchini), adjusting quantities so that they are in proportion. Finally, add two or so skinned, chopped tomatoes. Some recipes suggest mushrooms and no brinjals, while others include both. It’s up to you. The most difficult part of this dish is not to overcook it – you want lovely liquid from the various vegetables but you don’t want them to turn to mush, so watch the pot!  As it’s just about done, add a good handful of fresh, chopped oreganum and/or italian parsley.

More recently, I’ve taken to roasting the peppers and then adding them towards the end, which I did here:

Serve hot or cold – with pasta, beautiful bread or rice – accompanied by a sprinkling of cheese (mild or strong, depending on your preference).

Ratatouille makes a lovely side dish, vegan or vegetarian meal.

Grilled Brinjal salad with a chilli yoghurt dressing

This is a variation on a platter served at Jakes in the Village, a few years ago, and a favourite spot when we lived in Cape Town.  We enjoyed it so much, I experimented and have now made it my own. The salad consists of slices of brinjal, grilled, placed on a bed of leaves and drizzled with a yoghurt dressing. This simple dressing is made from plain yoghurt, a little chilli jam (or fresh chilli, chopped and some honey) lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Of course, garnish with fresh coriander which works so well with chilli!


In this salad, I added fresh avocado and dill.

Keeping a paté promise

This post was one of my first – back in 2014.  It makes me realise how far I have come – blogging, cooking and taking happy snaps of my food.  I do admit that some of those early posts have been consigned to cyber oblivion.  No blockchains then.  Again, another conversation for another time.

This morning, a friend reminded me of a paté I used to make.  Often.  I first ate it in the home of a former uni lecturer and world expert in Dickens.  She subsequently gave me the recipe book from which it came.  Some time in the last nearly twenty years, I lent it to someone, I don’t know whom, and I’ve never had it back.  I’ve continued making the paté – from memory.  In the original version of this post, I gave the recipe somewhat en passant: just a list of ingredients and a basic process, but not much else.

Peculiarly, I have been thinking about this recipe because it’s the season when our market is quite busy and vegetarian options in greater demand.  I learned that it’s not like the chicken liver paté and hummus that are constant good sellers, so I’d not done it for a while.

It is not the middle eastern baba ghanoush of which I am not fond.  Perhaps I’ve not had a “good” one.  Equally, it’s possible that I’ve had a “good” on a meze platter and not known what it is.  It is vegan.  My bringal paté is not, but the cottage cheese can be substituted with vegan cheese.  It’s simple – roasted brinjal, cottage cheese, garlic and fresh herbs.  A remembers it from happier days when we sat in our Cape Town garden enjoying spritzers and not talking shop or, heaven help the world, Covid.

Here we are, 14 years ago in that same garden – a party that marked my 20th year as an independent consultant in my previous day job

Good times as colleagues and friends and good to remember them now – and to be able to keep a promise.

For you, A, and now I’ve applied my mind, the recipe is here.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

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And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

  • I also share my occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.

In yet another aspect of my life –

English writing, research and online tutoring services
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