Fresh Ginger, Garlic and Tomato Sauce

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Not a sauce from the classic repertoire, this salsa-like mixture goes well with any slightly oily fish such as red mullet or sea bass. It is also a fine accompaniment to vegetable dishes such as stuffed aubergine (eggplant) or courgette (zucchini).

Ingredients

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 10cm (4in) piece fresh ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1 tablespoon light sesame or sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 25g (1 oz/¼ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • salt and black pepper

Method

Skin and deseed the tomatoes and dice the flesh. Peel and finely chop the ginger, shallots and garlic. Finely chop the chilli.

In a saucepan, sweat the ginger, shallot, garlic and chilli in the oil. Add the passata and 1 tablespoon of water and cook gently for 2 minutes. Add the diced tomato, some salt and milled black pepper, and allow to heat through.

Just before serving, heat the sauce with the butter and chopped herbs, stirring or whisking so that the butter thickens the sauce.

The joy of opening a restaurant lies in the planning. The earnest conversation of the early days, well lubricated by wine and optimism, concentrates on lofty matters of policy and pricing, which sort of tables and chairs to buy, tablecloths or no tablecloths, which design of crokery, all that sort of thing. Nearer the time it takes a turn for the worse.

Having borrowed money and installed ourselves, we applied for planning consent. A local architect had drawn up some plans that covered the main concerns of the chief planning officer and the council building supervisor. They were a nightmare. A house with two bathrooms and four lavatories needed another place to pee in. A staircase had to be re-routed, leaving our bedroom as the only corridor to the loft conversion. Expensive emergency lighting and fire precautions had to be installed. Worst of all, a new front door was to be carved into the front of the house and this would need permission from English Heritage.

The local paper gave our proposed venture front page headlines: ‘Television chef upsets local residents with restaurant scheme’. Having done hardly any television, except in the West Country, I was flattered and Anja amused at the elevation to celebrity status. However, the petition against our plan from disgruntled neighbours with parking and noise worries was more disturbing. We followed the to and fro of correspondence in the papers with interest but didn’t join in. The sewers wouldn’t cope, property prices would fall, the four horsemen of the apocalypse would ride through Ludlow spreading gloom and despond. Permission was eventually granted, with the proviso that we cannot serve takeaway meals. We were nonetheless grateful and the builders moved in forthwith.

Having building work done is stressful. Your house is a site, not a home, and things that should be funny take on a surreal and paranoia-inducing aspect. The building supervisor noticed one day that some bedroom windows that have served well since Oliver Cromwell rode past were too small to comply with fire regulations. What to do? Murder seemed a more uplifting prospect than suicide, but Anja found a solution: we would not call that room a bedroom, we would call it a lobby, in which case the windows would be fine. Everyone is content and we have slept in the upstairs lobby ever since.
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