Food: Secret veg sauce

 
Secret veg sauce 5
Secret veg sauce 5

I cannot tell you how much it irks me that my children don't willingly eat vegetables. It makes me mad that despite all the baby led weaning and gentle encouragement they still shun anything that isn't a carrot or pea, or maybe lettuce at a push. Except of course at nursery, where apparently they eat all their vegetables, even cucumber, which my almost four-year-old considers to be spawn of Satan at home.

I will not accept them not eating vegetables though so I have to get them into them by stealth. This sauce contains a minimum of six vegetables and sometimes more - yet none of them are distinguishable to even the pickiest of eaters and it is so versatile that I use it as a base for a huge number of family meals. I make up a vat of the stuff about once a month and freeze it in batches that can then be turned into anything from a curry or a pasta bake, to a tagine or pizza. And every time I use it I know that even if they don't eat the accompanying vegetables they have at least had a huge dose of vitamins and anti-oxidants from this sauce. Best of all they love this sauce and will even eat it plain on pasta with just a bit of cheese on top. Little do they know what is in it.

Over the next few weeks I plan on showing you some of the family meals I make with this sauce. So if you want to cook a long, so to speak, then make a batch of this and get it in your freezer.

You will need:

Secret veg sauce 1
Secret veg sauce 1

A selection of brightly coloured vegetables - what I use depends on what I can get hold of - in this batch I used:

Two peppers (one orange, one yellow) Two courgettes Half a spring squash (butternut is similar) A red onion A white onion Two carrots Four cloves of garlic Four 400g tins plum tomatoes 1 tablespoon oregano Olive oil Balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper

(Other veg that work well include aubergine, leeks and mushrooms. I would probably avoid starchier veg such as sweet potato, parsips, swede and things with a strong flavour such as fennel.)

This recipe makes 5x400g batches and three mini pots (I'll explain more later on)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180c

Chop up the peppers, red onion and courgettes in to similar sized chunks. Peel and deseed the squash and cut into slightly smaller pieces. Toss with a good lug of olive oil and season if you like. Put in a roasting tray (I usually spread them over two trays) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until slightly browned and sweet.

Secret veg sauce 2
Secret veg sauce 2

Meanwhile finely dice the white onion and peel and dice the carrots. Soften in a little olive oil in a pan over a low heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle over 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and crush in the four cloves of garlic. Stir well for a minute or so before adding the tinned tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes whole at this point to create a sweeter sauce (tomato seeds can make the sauce bitter and more acidic)/ Rinse out and set aside one of the empty tins.

Secret veg sauce 3
Secret veg sauce 3
Secret veg sauce 4
Secret veg sauce 4

Cook the sauce over a low heat for 30 minutes. Tip in the roasted vegetables and cook for another five or 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes and add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Blitz up the sauce until smooth. I use a stick blender which saves ladling hot sauce into a blender. Season to taste then allow to cool slightly.

Label five large freezer bags and grab your empty tomato tin. Ladle the sauce into the tin right to the brim - this will give you a 400g batch of sauce to pour into one of your waiting bag. Measuring out the sauce portions like this means that you can now substitute a can of plain old tomatoes for a can of your veg-packed-sauce in any recipe. Useful hey?

There will probably be a bit of sauce left over. I save the little plastic pots that come with the mango chutney in when you order a takeaway curry and fill these up with veg sauce. This is the perfect amount to use to top two or three pizzas. I got three mini pots filled up with the remaining sauce. You could also freeze it in a silicone ice cube tray or mini muffin pan like you would with baby purees and then turn out into a bag. Just defrost a few cubes per pizza.

Ideally defrost the sauce in the fridge before you use it. But if you're anything like me you'll f0rget to get it out of the freezer - in which case run the bag under the hot tap to loosen it and then tip out into a sauce pan and defrost and heat through before adding to your recipe.

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Secret Veg Sauce

Ingredients:

Two peppers (one orange, one yellow) Two courgettes Half a spring squash (butternut is similar) A red onion A white onion Two carrots Four cloves of garlic Four 400g tins plum tomatoes 1 tablespoon oregano Olive oil Balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper

(Other veg that work well include aubergine, leeks and mushrooms. I would probably avoid starchier veg such as sweet potato, parsips, swede and things with a strong flavour such as fennel.)

This recipe makes 5x400g batches and three mini pots

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180c

Chop up the peppers, red onion and courgettes in to similar sized chunks. Peel and deseed the squash and cut into slightly smaller pieces. Toss with a good lug of olive oil and season if you like. Put in a roasting tray (I usually spread them over two trays) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until slightly browned and sweet.

Meanwhile finely dice the white onion and peel and dice the carrots. Soften in a little olive oil in a pan over a low heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle over 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and crush in the four cloves of garlic. Stir well for a minute or so before adding the tinned tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes whole at this point to create a sweeter sauce (tomato seeds can make the sauce bitter and more acidic).

Cook the sauce over a low heat for 30 minutes. Tip in the roasted vegetables and cook for another five or 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes and add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Blitz up the sauce until smooth. I use a stick blender which saves ladling hot sauce into a blender. Season to taste then allow to cool slightly before spooning into bags to freeze for later.