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Special “Tomato” sauce

Serves 6-8

This is a good sauce to make and freeze if required. Freezing can reduce levels of pesticide residues in tomatoes with no loss of nutrients. Cooking of tomatoes aids in the bioavailability of lycopene, an antioxidant found abundant in tomatoes. Lycopene is thought to be present in the form of crystals associated with the membrane structures in tomato cells and studies have demonstrated that lycopene bioavailability from tomato paste that was both homogenized and heat-treated was higher than from fresh tomatoes and this bioavailability was due to the cooking effect.

This is a special recipe as it not only contains tomatoes but other vegetables and is a great recipe for kids!  Red peppers and carrots are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid.  Red peppers also contain a large amount of phytochemicals that have exceptional antioxidant
activity and lycopene. Celery is rich in Vitamins C and K and also contains active compounds called phthalides, which can help relax the muscles around arteries and allow those vessels to dilate. With more space inside the arteries, the blood can flow at a lower pressure. Phthalides also reduce stress hormone, one of whose effects is to cause blood vessels to constrict hence is good for the heart.
When crushed, garlic can provide a powerful cancer-protective effect to the body. Garlic contains two main medicinal compounds: allicin and diallyl sulphides, which can help boost the immune system and fight off cancer. Find out more in "Is Your Food Is Killing?"  You Researchers found that capers help to prevent the oxidation of fat that occurs during cooking and digestion, especially of meats. They also found that components in capers help to regenerate antioxidant vitamin E, making more of it available for use in the body. Both of these things may help reduce the risk for heart disease. Capers also contain isothiocyanates, the same anti-cancer components found in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli sprouts that are capable of interrupting several steps in cancer initiation, and can provide DNA protection. Fennel, besides being an excellent source of Vitamin C, contains the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides, that give its strong antioxidant activity.

1 pip garlic, chopped (leave a few minutes after slicing to allow for the enzymes responsible for the formation of the biologically active compounds to work)
1 spring onion, chopped
1 tbsp capers, fresh if possible or bottled in brine
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
5 medium sized plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium sized carrots, peeled then grated
2 red peppers, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, remove outside layers, cut into very thin strips
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for cooking
2 tsp Salt

In a pan, heat olive oil slightly then add tomatoes, celery, fennel and peppers. Cook over low heat for about 5 min and if required, add 1 tbsp water to prevent vegetables getting too dry and sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Add grated carrots. Cook further 5 min until vegetables are tender then add capers, garlic and spring onion. Cook for a further 2 min. Season to taste. Take sauce off heat and blend to achieve a smooth texture. This sauce can be used with minced lamb as a sauce for Spaghetti Bolognese. Lightly fry the minced lamb in a little olive oil and add sauce. If freezing a portion of this sauce, do not thaw the sauce after freezing. Instead, add frozen sauce directly to dish.

I tend to make this sauce and divide into two portions. Sauce is suitable for freezing, although I tend not to keep it for longer than 2 weeks in the freezer. Use this sauce as a vegetarian sauce or add minced lamb meat for a delicious sauce for pasta or in lasagna. I tend to make this fresh on the day as a sauce for pasta and use the frozen portion the next week in lasagna. I sometimes use the thawed sauce with fish where I first dilute the thawed sauce with a little water to reduce the consistency. Once the sauce is bubbling and heated through, add salmon or halibut (works well) and cook for approximately 5-8 min. Season to taste, remove from heat and add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. I serve this dish with rice or cous cous.