This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
On Friday night two friends were arriving in from Cambridge in time for a late supper. They didn’t arrive until after 9pm, fortunately, as the previous night at Mackerel and an after-work engagement party ensured that I didn’t get home until around half seven. Walking home from town I nipped into Spiceland to pick up some pita breads and a tin of dolmades (rice stuffed vine leaves) and together with a few house basics – potatoes, carrots, chorizo, eggs – decided on a simple tapas-style meal with a Mediterranean flavour.
After enjoying a visit to the Nelson branch of Mediterranean Foods, I had intended to visit their shop in Christchurch, which also includes a café, for quite a while now but, somehow, it just never seemed to happen. But when I did finally make it I had a very pleasant afternoon, browsing through the shelves of this Aladdin’s Cave, piled high with ingredients from the Mediterranean and the Middle East.