Matt Preston’s Best Ever Tomato Sauce (Ketchup) recipe

Makes: 2x 750ml bottles

There is an argument for not cooking the staples: bread, pasta, ketchup.

Until you do.

Example one? A pita bread Nat cooked a few months back for a Lebanese dinner we cooked. A texture, a taste in superior, pale comparison to the stuff we get in the bread aisle.

Example two? A good friend Kieran, locked down in isolation though with the skills and technology to make crumpets… did so. Not only was it easy he said, though again… the texture and taste where so vastly better than the stuff at Coles that he now refuses to look at them at Coles.

And then there is this example from Nat. Ketchup.

True, we are a family that makes it own sausages and so perhaps it isn’t to much of a jump to make our own ketchup. Except that as per paragraph one of this blog, it wasn’t until we made our own ketchup that we knew why you should.

This ketchup by Matt Preston has a warmth and depth you just cannot find in a store-bought ketchup. With a good sausage (and I am a believer that ketchup should be exclusively used for sausages, hamburgers and meatloaf only and definitely not chips), it is the equal hero with the sausage.

So good, Nat has made three batches which have been delivered in empty gin and vodka bottles to neighbours, parents and sisters. (We have discovered that access to suitable bottling has not been at all an issue in this lockdown!)

Not only because it’s isolation and you’re looking for something to do… make your own ketchup because it’s like the homemade pasta, freshly-baked crumpets of condiments.

Ingredients

2.5kg ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
10 Whole Cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups (clear) white malt vinegar

Method

  1. Put the chopped tomato + onion, cloves, berries, paprika, garlic, cinnamon and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring every now and then, until the tomato breaks down and is tender. It takes about 1 hour. 
  2. Add the sugar and vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for a further hour and 15 minutes or until mixture reduces, thickens and is of a saucy consistency. Adjust seasoning.
  3. Strain mixture through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, in batches, pressing down strongly to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids or use as a relish. Pour hot mixture into (Vodka, Gin or Tequilla) bottles. Store in the fridge.

Matt Preston’s World’s Best Rissoles

Serves: 4

I get the feeling that rissoles are back in vogue.

And thank you for that!

They still have the stigma of being a daggy, lazy dinner – left behind in the wave of MasterChef and salmon-three-ways – though it is the nostalgia and honesty of the rissole that now makes it on trend.

These Matt Preston rissoles are really good and served with a puréed mash and buttered peas, they closed off a weekend of cooking perfectly.

For lunch, Nat made Thomas Keller’s Cauliflower Panna Cotta with an Oyster Jelly and Bulgar Caviar; the night before, we made handmade noodles for a fusion Chinese/Middle Eastern dish.

Which is exactly why we needed these rissoles and why rissoles are what you need to hold back the endless waves of culinary complexity and sous videing. Enough is enough!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 zucchini, coarsely grated
800gm lamb mince
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 heaped tbsp of whatever European herbs you have: basil, oregano, parsley, coriander, tarragon or majoram, though not sage or mint
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
Sea salty and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup mint jelly
2 tbsp malt vinegar (we used black vinegar)
Mash (into which we mixed two finely chopped raw French onions)
Buttered peas

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat; add the onions, carrot and zucchini, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until everything softens. Set aside to cool.
  2. Add the mince, tomato sauce, herbs, oats and egg to the vegetable mixture and season. Mix well using your (clean) hands until well combined. Shape into 12 rissoles.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the rissoles in batches a cook for 5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  4. Add the mint jelly and vinegar to the pan and stir over a medium heat until the jelly melts. Return the rissoles and toss in the liquid for 2 minutes until coasted, sticky and glossy.
  5. Serve with mash and peas.

Matt Preston’s Cheat’s Lamb Pide

Serves: 4 (2 of you in reality)

One of our favourite pastimes comes in three parts:

  1. Long, lunch with a few bottles of wine
  2. A few more drinks at home, music, laughter, talking shit
  3. Making the sort of dinner you want after 1. and 2.

Point 3. of course requires planning because you can’t just decide on a whim to cook something wonderful and outrageous on the couch at home. You not only need the ingredients to be in the fridge, you likely need to have made a start on it… because nobody feels like cooking a fresh meal at 7pm on a Saturday night after a few wines.

We spent a few nights up in Newcastle last year leading up to NYE.

We love a place up there – Parry Street Garage – which serves great pizza and pasta, great wines and beers and more great wine. And it was within walking distance of our AirBNB.

Fast-forward a few hours, the music is on and we commence Matt Preston’s Cheat’s Lamb Pide.

Fast forward another hour or so and we have the best, Saturday-night – still drinking wine – dinner, in Merewether.

Do this the next time you have your own long lunch and finish (or start) the night right!

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
600gm lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1/4 cup un-roasted pistachio kernels, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 oval-shaped rolls or small baguettes
1/3 cup Greek-style yoghurt (full fat!)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the lamb mince; cook, breaking up the mince for 10 minutes until well browned and crisping.
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and cinnamon and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato and cook for 4 minutes until the tomato starts to break down. Season.
  4. Time for a red wine: pour one glass and enjoy. Turn the music up.
  5. Combine the pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios, parsley, mint, lemon juice and remaining oil in a bowl.
  6. Cut a long slit along the top of each bread roll, ensuring that you do not cut all the way through. Open the roll slightly and scoop out a little of the bread. Spoon in the lamb mixture into the rolls to fill. Place on a baking tray and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until warmed through and the rolls are crisp and crunchy on the outside.
  7. Top the rolls with yoghurt and sprinkle with the pomegranate mixture.
  8. Tequila time!

Matt Preston’s Classic Ragu with Polenta Dumplings

Serves: 4 – 6

We’ve typed up a few ragus and slow braises and we have reached a point where unless there is something radical about the dish, it wont make the cut.

This Matt Preston ragu makes the cut.

It is from his book, Yummy Easy Quick, a Christmas gift from Nat.

I’ve never had a failed Matt Preston dish and really admire his wholesome, no-holding-back cooking.

Despite the name of the book, his book – and this recipe – isn’t some sort of magazine aisle ‘I don’t have time to cook’ publication: the book is is just great recipes that are easy enough and certainly fun enough for any night of the week.

Specifically for this ragu, it is the ragu itself and especially the fun of the polenta dumplings that makes the whole thing really work.

Complex it is not, tasty, ragu amazing it is.

We had this the night before NYE 2017 with our friends Woodles and Billy.

It was fabulous and ticked all the boxes.

Happy 2018.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg gravy beef, cut into 4cm pieces
100gm pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 fresh or dry bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups passata
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Dumplings

1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup polenta
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Heat the over to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof saucepan. Cook the beef until browned, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook until soft. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the beef, tomatoes, stock and passata. Cover and bake for 2 hours; taste and season well.
  5. 15 minutes prior to this, make the dumplings: combine the flour, polenta and cheese in a bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until well combined. When the ragu comes out, scoop 1/4 cups of dumpling mixture on the ragu like golf balls. Sprinkle the dumplings with extra cheese.
  6. Return the dish, covered, to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Serves: 1 – 2

It is the night of New Year’s Day and that pretty much means toasties in a fry-pan.

It’s hot, you’re exhausted, you’ve had your wine and BBQ quota for the year and all you want is to curl up on the couch – with a beer – and watch Seinfeld.

The boys got their usual, plain-Jane toastie and loved it, though we had been saving this Matt Preston toastie for just a night like tonight.

And it killed it.

It is really special. It is simple to prepare assuming you have the right cheeses – which you really do need on account of their ideal melting points. The cheese melts like in a pizza ad.

And the ‘quickled’ onions leave a wonderful aftertaste.

Wow. What a way to start the new year!

Ingredients

1 leek, dark outer leaves removed
½ garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
½ cup grated Gruyere
½ buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
25gm soften unsalted butter
2cm-thick slices white bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

‘Quickled’ onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Method

For the quickled onions

  1. Toss onion, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle slightly. Stir through vinegar and set aside for 2 minutes or until needed.

For the toastie

  1. Clean and trim the leek. Place in a microwave-safe container and microwave uncovered on a high-heat for 4-minutes or until the leek is just tender. Split lengthways, remove the soft inner layers (discarding the outer layers) and chop.
  2. Stir through the garlic and cheeses and season well.
  3. Preheat a frypan over a medium heat. Line with a piece of baking paper.
  4. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 1 slice (per toastie) on the baking paper.
  5. Spread dijon over the slice and make a slight indent in the slice and fill with the cheese mixture. Place the other slice of bread on top, adding more dijon if you can juggle and ensuring the buttered side is facing outwards. (I know that you know how to make a toastie; I am writing this for our young boys so that when they start properly cooking, they have a few recipes and instructions to fall back on).
  6. Cook for 2 minutes each side until melted or until golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve toastie with the quickled onions.

Matt Preston’s Bolognese

Serves: 6

As much as I would like to cook something different and a little bit fancy each night, that trick doesn’t always work around here.

When Nat wants comfort and the boys want comfort, that’s what you do.

This bolognese is the best of both worlds.

It’s comfortable and yet, with the excellent soffritto and four or five hours of cooking time, it is certainly on the fancier side of bolognese. Sizzler buffet this is not.

Next time, I’d try to dial it up further with some milk to the soffritto and maybe some anchovies; perhaps veal and pork mince rather than just beef, though the bacon makes a nice touch.

As it was, it was more than fine.

The boys wolfed it down and Oliver asked for it in his lunchbox. Nat said it was the best she has ever had.

This dish won’t change the world though I know I will be asked to cook it again and again and I can certainly live with that!

Ingredients

Olive oil
40g butter
2 medium carrots, diced small
3 medium brown onions, diced small
4 bacon rashers cut into fingernail size tiles
2 celery sticks, diced small
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped and crushed
3 tbsp tomato paste
1kg beef mince
1 lemon; 4cm piece of peel/rind and then halved for juicing
500ml red wine
3 bay leaves
Splash Worcestershire sauce
2 cans tinned tomatoes
500ml beef stock

1 large pack of egg tagliatelle
150g Italian parmesan cheese, grated
1 loaf crusty bread and a green salad for serving

Method

  1. For the soffritto: Heat a heavy pan over a low-medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and the butter and heat.
  2. Saute the onion, carrots and bacon. After a few minutes, add in the celery and cook the vegetables slowly until translucent. Sprinkle over the brown sugar and stir through. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for a further few minutes.
  3. Set the soffritto aside in a bowl.
  4. Add more olive oil to the pan and when hot, brown the mince. Add the browned meat to the soffritto.
  5. Turn up the heat and deglaze the pan with the red wine. When the wine has reduced by half, add back the meat, soffritto, bay leaves and a couple of good dashes of Worcestershire sauce, lemon peel, tomatoes and stock. Stir.
  6. Season with salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice from one half of the lemon. Reserve the other lemon half.
  7. Bring to the boil covered, remove the lid and turn the heat right down. Cook gently for four hours, turning occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn. Finish the red wine left over in the bottle and put your feet up.
  8. Taste, season and get it thick, rich and dark.
  9. Cook your pasta, make your salad, grate your cheese, break the bread and enjoy!

Five-cheese and ham triple-decker toastie

Serves: 2

It’s Easter and we are on holidays on the beautiful South Coast of NSW.

A few unstructured days of walking along the beach, sleeping in and opening a Champagne every afternoon around 2.

(Even Max the 10-month old seems to be getting into it, sleeping in until 7.45 and then going back to bed with a bottle.)

With such a theme of relaxation and “who cares?”, it seemed appropriate to have this toastie one evening for dinner. A extraordinary toastie that on every level, tells you to sit down, shut up and just eat it.

For there are plenty of times for chicken breast and salad and abstaining from wine and life.

But Easter isn’t that time.

Which is why, right now, it’s five-cheese, toastie time and nobody here felt guilt or apologised for it*.

(The recipe is from the always reliable, Gourmet Traveller.)

Ingredients

200gm firm ricotta
75gm cheddar, coarsely grated
75gm provolone, coarsely grated
75gm Parmesan, finely grated
200gm buffalo mozzarella, thickly sliced
6 slices, pane di casa bread**
Dijon mustard
Leg ham slices, off the bone
40gm butter, diced

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Stir the ricotta, cheddar, provolone, and Parmesan in a bowl to combine and season to taste. Spread two of the bread slices with the cheese mixture, then top each with another bread slice.
  3. Spread with mustard to taste, top with slices of ham and the mozzarella. Season to taste and sandwich with the remaining 2 slices of bread.
  4. Melt butter in a large, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, add sandwiches and fry until browned on the base: 1 – 2 minutes. Carefully turn over and brown the other side, then transfer in the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling: 3 – 4 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and spoon the remaining butter in the pan over the top of the toasties and serve hot.

* Once you have done this sandwich, please try Matt Preston’s amazing toasted sandwich, something we unironically cooked one NYE evening!

** A rustic, thick crust white Italian bread cooked on a stone. Or try sourdough.