It’s all about tomatoes this time of year! I’m in my element gathering every day from my different tomato plants – eager for each new cultivar to ripen so that I can enjoy it’s shape, colour and of course, taste test. So far my most…
This is my go-to sauce. It is simple, allowing the gorgeous taste of the heirloom tomatoes to shine. It's got no added sugar, and just a dash of balsamic for an added depth of flavour. It still preserves well because of the natural acidity of the tomatoes. I think the original recipe said it can last for 3 months in the refrigerator, but that was without using a canner/processor, which I did this time, so I'm sure it will last longer.
Reduced to a rich and semi-thick sauce, this makes an excellent base for pasta sauces, such as bolognaise, or for adding to soups and stews. We even use it as a pizza base sauce.
- 5kg heirloom tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
- 12 - 18 cloves of garlic
- two bunches of fresh herbs (e.g. basil or oregano)
- 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup Olive oil
- Drop the heirloom tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes, and then into an ice bath to split the skins so that they can peel of easily (once cooled)
- De-seed the tomatoes as well as you can, reserving any juices
- Chop the tomatoes in your food processor.* This time I had a food mill to do steps 2 and 3 for me, and although churning the mill was still hard work, it was far less of a mission than the manual process I did last year!
- Add the juice and chopped tomatoes (I ended up with just over 3l of tomato) to a heavy pot or jam pan (I'm so super lucky to have a brand new maslin pan to my collection for this year's preserving missions!) and add the crushed garlic cloves.
- Add the olive oil and bring it all to a boil, boiling for 5 minutes
- Reduce heat and simmer for around 2 hours, or until the sauce is thickening up, and the olive oil and tomato sauce separates. At this point my sauce reduced to around 1.8l
- Add the herbs, balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper
- Bring back to the boil for around 5 minutes.
- Pour into sterilized jars and continue with canning, or refrigerate after cooling.
A culinary match made in heaven - butternut and feta and sage. Add in the nutty taste of burnt butter, and throw in some pasta, and you have a meal on your hands that would make any Italian Nonna proud!
You can use any culinary sage for this dish - I used a trio of sages - common sage (Salvia officinalis), purple sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea') and golden sage (Salvia officinalis 'Icterina').
Sage is a wonderful common culinary herb to have growing in your kitchen garden - it has a strong, slightly bitter taste that pairs well with poultry, fatty meats, and with liver or kidneys. It keeps its flavour even in long cooking dishes, so add it to soups and stews too.
Not only does it taste good - sage is a bit of a wonder herb medicinally as well - linked to increased memory function, improved cholesterol levels and better digestion.
- 1 Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- Drizzle of Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 200g plain white flour
- 100g semolina
- 3 eggs
Burnt Butter with Crispy Sage
- 115g butter
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- For the butternut, add the cubed butternut squash to a roasting pan, drizzle with a dash of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes, until the butternut is soft and just starting to caramelize. Take from the oven and let cool before roughly mashing it with a fork.
- Add the flours to the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, and mix until well combined, now start adding the eggs and beat until a dough is formed. Remove the dough and knead for a few minutes, wrap in beeswax wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least half an hour to relax.
You can also make this by hand - add flours to a bowl and create a well in the center - add the eggs into that well and start combining the flour from the sides into the egg with a fork until all is incorporated. Knead and proceed as above.
- Once the dough is rested, roll it with a pasta machine into lasagna sheets and lay them flat on a floured surface.
- To make the filling, break a block of feta cheese into the cooled butternut squash and mix through. Add a tablespoon of mixture at a time onto the pasta sheet. Lay another sheet over the first, cupping the filling, pressing as much air out as you can, and making sure the pasta sheets seal onto each other. Cut into ravioli squares. Or use a cookie cutter for a round ravioli shape.
- Cook filled ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes, drain and reserve.
- To make the burnt butter sage sauce - add the butter to a small saucepan over medium to high heat until the butter is melting. Watch the butter closesly - when it starts bubbling, add the sage leaves which should fry and crinkle up almost immediately. Continue to swirl the saucepan over the heat until the butter just starts to turn brown - don't overcook!
- Drizzle over served pasta and add a few crispy sage leaves.
It is undeniable – there’s an undercurrent rising in the soil, teasing seeds awake, nudging dormant perennial roots, and tickling growth buds on shrubs and trees. It’s the feeling of spring, and although the Lady herself (whether you name her Ēostre, Flora, Yarylo, Thallo, or Persephone) has not yet arrived in all her splendor, the garden is getting ready for her grand entrance.
This means the lemon balm is pushing out beautiful new fresh green growth! And that the calendula are flowering (at least a bit more profusely than they have been – I’ve been lucky to have had a golden bloom every now and then through parts of winter).
Perfect little plants to welcome in springtime. And a great way to tune yourself to this renewal of life, is to enjoy garden fresh lemon balm and calendula tea.
Alluding to their use as medicinal plants are their Latin epithets, “officinalis” denoting substances or organisms – mainly plants – with uses in medicine and herbalism. Lemon Balm = Melissa officinalis; Calendula = Calendula officinalis
The tea “recipe”
A quick and simple infusion to make, add a handful of fresh lemon balm leaves with the petals of a few calendula (or one large bloom) and steep in just-boiled water for a couple of minutes. The blend is soothing and calming, but also awakening, gently working on your body systems to get you ready for the busy-ness of spring and summer. It is also lovely to have on hand as a cold tea on those hot summer days to follow.
What are the benefits of lemon balm?
Used since the Middle Ages, Melissa, is a gentle but hard-working herb. In some circles it is known as the Life Herb, promoting longevity and good health, while others call it the Happy Herb, because it has a positive effect on mood. Scientific studies seem to concur with these age-old beliefs, and lemon balm is the subject of trials to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and heal wounds.
It is said to protect the liver, and is of particular interest to those investigating heart health as it seems to be very effective in regulating the heart’s electrocardiac rhythms. Powerfully anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, lemon balm is also strongly antibacterial and anti-fungal (it makes a super lip balm for cold sores!). As a herb for the nervous system, and brain function, it effectively treats anxiety and soothes insomnia, enhances mood, lifts depression, increases cognitive function, calms hyperactivity and increases concentration.
Quite an amazing package of health this little unassuming herb is!
What is even more wonderful is that it also tastes great – with a lovely lemon fragrance and a sweet herbal taste. It is also gentle enough that even really young children and the elderly can benefit from drinking lemon balm tea, or using lemon balm ointments on sores.
What are the benefits of calendula?
Calendula, or pot marigold as it is sometimes called, is well known as a skin-healing herb and many products, even commercial ones, contain calendula for its reputed positive effects on the skin. It heals and soothes insect bites, stings, sprains, wounds and scrapes and burns. It is also an effective wash for sore eyes, and gargle for mouth ulcers.
Although not as commonly used internally, calendula is a nutritious food too. Even the leaves are edible, and are sometimes compared to dandelion leaves in the number of vitamins and minerals they contain. The flower is great to add to salads, or even stews and soups, you can steam it with rice, or use it to decorate baked goods. I’ve even made calendula-streaked open-faced lasagna before.
Medicinally, the calendula flower is cleansing and detoxifying, working on the lymphatic system and digestive system. It tones up the circulation and is stimulating to the immune system. The flower is also antibacterial and anti-fungal, making calendula a good tea for times of cold and flu. The list of benefits of calendula petals goes on to include relief from headaches, gout, rheumatism and protection from the formation of liver complaints and gallstones. It soothes irritability and combats lethargy.
Another unassuming home herb with truly astounding properties. And again, as with lemon balm, it is gentle enough for people of all ages.