… Make a genuine ‘Sugo’ by Gareth Jones
Tomatoes weren’t cultivated in the place we now call Italy until the late 16th century. Like chocolate, corn and Columbus’s other South American bounty, the Spanish held onto tomatoes for decades. It’s said tomatoes made it to Southern Italy with a Spanish chef to the Spanish consulate in Naples.
Cans of Italian tomatoes, grown under fierce sunshine, are almost always best for colour and flavour. Best buy ‘chopped’, not ‘plum’ — and always Italian.
To dress pasta for six: pour contents from three cans into a pan, pass half a can of water round all three to get every bit of the tomato, bring up the heat and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Crush 3-4 garlic cloves and in they go too — you can also add a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary.
Lower heat and simmer for an hour or more: what’s essential for a genuine sugo is that you move the pan backwards and forwards to ‘split’ the sauce – the tomato will break away from the richly infused oil. With the sauce split and the garlic soft, season and your sugo is ready.
Gareth has a dependency on Independency — garethjonesfood.com
… Choose Wine to Impress, On A Budget by Stephen Finch
Buying a wine to impress that doesn’t cost the moon is much easier — and much more fun — than you might think.
Anyone can grab a swanky bottle of top Bordeaux, but it’ll cost you — boy, will it cost you. Instead, try going obscure. There are so many excellent wines out there from unfamiliar grapes and regions — something made-up-sounding like Bobal or Sudtiroler. Such wines, when good, often carry a very palatable price tag. For example, Menetou-Salon 2009 by Comte Jean Maréchal (£16.50) is an amazing Sauvignon Blanc across the river from Sancerre. Its awkward name means it’s a lot cheaper than equivalent Sancerres. Masseria Pietrosa Salice Salentino 2008 is a big, complex red for the money (£9.75) and hails from Puglia, the heel of Italy.
Next, get the story behind the wine. Merchants relish the chance to share anecdotes with you, and stories can give wine more character. Pick a wine with a story that has meaning to your recipient, and you’ll have a wine that impresses — and leaves the bank account intact.
Stephen is only full of it most of the time vagabondwines.co.uk
… liven up the supermarket shop by Dave Waddell
Shop on the hoof; have no list. Sharpens supermarket instincts. Encourages stream of consciousness shopping.
Choose a shallow shopping trolley. Creates in shopper a feeling of being without familial concerns. Careless, single, this kind of super shopper buys on sight.
Skate, don’t push. Today’s lightweight shopping trolleys are made for skating up and down supermarket aisles.
Work backwards. Begin in frozen foods. Surreal and under-populated section of the supermarket. Anything could happen.
Have a wine plan. Spend heavily in wines and beers. Do not read labels. Select instead on the basis of look and colour of bottle. Buy some whisky.
Miss out cleaning products, bathroom amenities, tins, dried foods, fresh fruit and vegetables. Cuts down on chores and places emphasis on consuming frozen ready-mades.
Eat a Creme Egg while queuing to pay. Proustian trick. Dissolves time and space.
On leaving, drink strong coffee and smoke a handful of cigarettes. Reduces expected number of supermarket shops in a given life.
Dave is not an expert shopper.
… cure bacon by Tim Hayward
Curing your own bacon takes a little effort but produces excellent rashers that don’t yield puddles of milky liquid when cooked.
Buy a large piece of boned belly pork and find a resealable freezer bag that will hold it. Mix 500g of cheap coarse sea salt with the same quantity of Demerara sugar and rub it vigorously into the bacon, working it hard into the skin and any pockets in the meat side.
Put the meat into the bag, add the rest of the salt and sugar mix, seal and put it in the fridge. Turn the meat over daily and massage it through the bag. After five days remove the bacon which will now be awash in a strong brown brine, rinse and soak for half an hour in clear water. Finally, pat it dry and hang it from a hook in a cool corner of the kitchen wrapped loosely in muslin or a clean tea towel.
After hanging for a week your bacon will have dried out further and the cure will have fully penetrated. It will be less pink than commercial bacon but approximately eight times as good. Slice thinly, fry in a dry pan and dig in.
Tim finds that where there’s bacon smoke, there’s fireandknives.com