Two Christmases ago, my second since moving from London to the US, David took me to The Counter in Hackney Wick, East London. Their specialty is a thick, sweet, tomato relish served on the side of a variety of delicious breakfasts. Ever since, I’ve always held a special affection for a well made tomato sauce and whilst making a breakfast spread this morning, tried to improvise my own. One thing that the America fried breakfast can lack is moisture, since they don’t do baked beans here. The tomato sauce works really well.
There are all kinds of potential that could be done here, but this first base version was delicious.
- 1 can of roughly chopped tomatoes.
- 1 leek, finely sliced.
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- A teaspoon of cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- A little salt, a generous amount of pepper
- Olive oil
Heat a pan to medium heat, add a splash of olive oil (less than you’d usually use; just enough to coat the leek.) Add the leaks, immediately drop the heat a little, soften them and season with salt and pepper. As the oil is absorbed by the leeks, add the cider vinegar to prevent them drying out or burning. Pour over the entire can of chopped tomatoes, stir and heat to a simmer. Then add the sugar and stir in.
You’ll now need to let it simmer some more, so that it starts to reduce and thicken. In my case, I let it go for twenty minutes, then tasted it and added a generous amount of ground black pepper; about three teaspoons. A dash of worcester sauce to finish, the pan was left to simmer on a low heat for around another twenty minutes whilst the rest of the breakfast was prepared.
The result is a thick, chunky tomato sauce with spice and sweetness. It was brilliant.
You can likely accelerate the process by draining the canned tomatoes, working at a higher heat, or even adding corn flour, but as with the best ragus, the key to getting sweetness from the leeks (or onions, or shallots, or whatever you like) is to fry them as slowly as you can.