Rich Gravy/Sauce for Meats or Vegetables and quick Stews and Casseroles

guiness-draught-beer-440ml-can-lrThis is a very rich and flavoursome sauce. Use it as a base for quick casseroles, such as my mushroom, pepper and Guinness casserole or to accompany grilled meats or vegetables.

The sauce is easy to make. I think of it as “nearly vegetarian”. To make it vegetarian, replace the Guinness and umami paste with vegetarian alternatives.

3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
3 celery sticks, cut into small dice
2 dried red chillies
A pinch of salt
Ground black pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
2 tablespoons flour
400ml of stock made with a vegetarian stock cube, 2 tsp tomato puree, 1 tsp Marmite and 1 tsp umami paste
1 x 440ml can of Guinness
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pinch of sugar

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and soften for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, chillies, salt, black pepper and thyme, stir well, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and add the stock little-by-little, stirring all the time to soak up the flour. Pour in the Guinness and add the red wine vinegar and sugar.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook in a low oven for 1 ½ hours. Stir the sauce occasionally and add a splash or two of boiling water if it starts to dry out. Check the seasoning.

The final sauce should be the texture of gravy and will coat the back of a spoon.

The sauce can now be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

Four Chilli Sauce

Four Chilli Sauce lr

Serve this delicious sauce chilled as a table sauce or dip. Or serve it hot to accompany pork or chicken. Either way, it’s fab!

Everyone agrees these days, sugar is the enemy. So I don’t add any sweetness as I like the sauce as it is. But, if you have a sweet tooth, add some raisins at the same time as the passata.

For the spice blend…
½ tsp dried chipotle chilli powder
½ tsp dried mulato chilli powder
½ tsp dried pasilla chilli powder
1 tsp dried ancho chilli powder
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano

Just mix everything together. Be generous with the measurements!

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 beef stock cube (I use an Oxo cube), dissolved in a little boiling water
400g jar of passata (I use Mutti)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a small pan, add the onion and cook gently until softened and starting to colour.

Add the spice blend and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add a splash of stock if it starts to catch.

Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to mix evenly and gently simmer, uncovered, until the mixture has cooked off and reduced. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth sauce, blitz it in a blender or pass it through a sieve.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

Cayenne chillies lr

Makes 320ml

While most supermarkets sell a wide range of sweet chilli sauces, it’s good to make your own from time to time. This isn’t too hot so if you want to crank up the heat, chuck in some more cayenne.

200g granulated sugar
110ml cider vinegar
110ml water
30ml (2 tablespoons) lime juice
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cayenne
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

Place all of the ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil uncovered to reduce to a light syrup.

The final volume should be about 320ml, so add hot water as necessary to make up the amount.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock lr

This recipe will give you a rich and naturally sweet vegetable stock that adds stacks of flavour to sauces, soups and casseroles. It is vegetarian and vegan.

You can cook this stock on the hob or in a slow cooker. I prefer to make it in a slow cooker. Vegetables tend to break down less in a slow cooker than when simmered on a hob, so using a slow cooker gives a clearer stock without compromising on flavour.

I use a 6.5 litre slow cooker. If you are using a different sized cooker, simply adjust the proportions of the recipe.

2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large celery sticks (with tops), roughly chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 largish tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
A pinch of salt
A small pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 ½ litres water

Place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Once the cooking time is up, sieve the stock into a clean pan and discard the solids. Boil the stock rapidly until it is reduced to 750 ml. The stock can be used immediately or stored in the fridge or freezer until needed.

Balsamic Vinaigrette


Serves 4

This vinaigrette differs from the standard balsamic vinaigrette by addition of water which has the effect of emulsifying (thickening) it. This is useful where you want the dressing to cover more evenly.

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic
1 tablespoon cold water
4 tablespoons (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Whisk together the mustard, balsamic and water, then whisk in the oil. This should give a thick, glossy dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add lemon juice if necessary for extra acidity (whether or not you need this will depend on the sweetness of the balsamic).

This dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Yellow Pepper Sauce

Yellow Peppers lr

This sauce is great with any grilled or barbecued foods; a real crowd pleaser for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. It is easy to prepare and can be made well ahead and stored in the fridge until needed. It is also a bit out of the ordinary and a welcome change from the usual shop bought table sauces.

3 large yellow peppers
3 – 4 tablespoons natural yogurt
1 – 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
Cayenne pepper to taste
Lime juice to taste

Halve, deseed and grill the peppers skin side up until black. Place them in a plastic bag for 10 minutes then remove their skins and chop the flesh into rough chunks. Blitz the peppers in a food processor with the yogurt until smooth. For a very smooth finish, pass through a sieve, although this will give the sauce a runnier consistency.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the soy sauce. Season with cayenne and lime juice to taste.

Piri piri sauce

piri piri chillies

This recipe will make about 120ml (8 tablespoons). The exact amount will depend upon the sizes of the chillies and pepper you use and how much the mixture reduces as it is cooked.

Piri piri sauce is a Portuguese chilli sauce. There are many piri piri sauces on the market and they can vary considerably in taste and heat – and quality. The best I have found is Quinta d’Avo Piri-Piri Hot Sauce but it’s not always easy to track down.

So why not make your own? It’s easy to prepare, will keep for ages in the fridge, you know it’s 100% natural, and it doesn’t have any nasty E numbers in it.

In my recipe I remove the seeds from the chillies but if you’re a chilli heat freak, just leave them in!

You can use piri piri sauce as a condiment or, my favourite, as a marinade.

4 to 5 long red chillies, deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
45ml cider vinegar
90ml water
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp smoked paprika

Roast the chillies, pepper and garlic for 20 to 25 minutes, turning them half way through. At the end of the roasting time they should be softened and starting to char at the edges. Tip them into a small saucepan and add the other ingredients. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of boiling water from time-to-time if it starts to dry out.

Cool the mixture then blitz it to a puree in a small blender. Pour it into a small non-reactive bowl, cover with cling film and store in the fridge until needed.

Tamarind Curry Sauce

dried red chillies low res

Makes enough to serve up to 8 in a main course

It is always a good idea to have a portion of this delicious sauce tucked away in the freezer, ready to make a quick and easy supper dish.

This curry sauce has a mild-to-medium heat. Tamarind gives it a wonderful sourness and coconut milk provides a touch of sweetness – a match made in heaven. It is ideal with vegetables, fish or chicken. It can be made ahead of time and reheated as needed.

This curry sauce is vegetarian and also vegan, as long as the tamarind paste and coconut milk are themselves vegan.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
6 dried red chillies
10 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 onions, finely diced
Dry spice mix made with 2 tsp each of mild Madras curry powder, ground coriander, ground turmeric, paprika and ground ginger
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes, blitzed to a puree (or use Passata)
1 tablespoon concentrated tamarind paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
135 ml water
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the dried chillies and stir fry briefly. Add the garlic cloves and stir fry over a medium heat. Once the garlic starts to brown add the onions and sauté until they have softened, approx 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the dry spice mix and stir fry for 45 seconds to cook off but don’t let the spice mix catch or burn. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tamarind and bring back to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and water and season with salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, part-cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes check the seasoning, adding a little more salt if needs be. Sieve the sauce into a clean pan and reheat when needed.

Real Tomato Sauce (not Ketchup!)

Mutti Passata low res

This sauce is not to be confused with tomato ketchup which is a quite different kettle of fish, or should I say tomatoes?

This is a great all round tomato sauce that you can use as a base for all sorts of dishes. Whenever a recipe calls for a tomato sauce base you can reach into the freezer and grab one you’ve made earlier. I use it in pasta sauces, goulashes and ratatouille or even just as an accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

This sauce tastes fruity and fresh. One caveat, though. The main ingredient is passata and not any old passata will do. It needs to be the best quality you can get. I’ve tried many different ones over the years and there is no doubt in my mind which is the best – Mutti passata wins hands down.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 x 700g bottles of Mutti passata
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
A generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
A generous pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion until soft and golden, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir from time to time. Taste to check the seasoning adding salt, pepper, red wine vinegar or sugar if needs be.

Divide the sauce into small portions and freeze them separately. I usually get five portions of about 225ml each. That way you can defrost only as much as you need and not waste any.

Pineapple Chutney

pineapple low res

Different varieties of chutneys and pickles are found throughout Caribbean and Creole cooking. This one is sweet and fruity and piquant, and delicious with grilled chicken, meats or fish or served with any jerked, barbequed or piri-piri food. There is no actual cooking involved – just combine all of the ingredients, give them a good stir and store covered in a refrigerator until needed. If you can’t get crushed pineapple, just buy pineapple chunks and crush them with a rolling pin. Finally, don’t go too easy on the Tabasco – this chutney is meant to be spicy.

(Tabasco is vegan, so this is a vegan dish. Not all pepper sauces are vegan though, so if this is important to you and you are using a different pepper sauce, check its list of ingredients.)

500g crushed pineapple, drained
2 spring onions, finely chopped (include some green tops as they add a colour contrast)
25g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
A good glug of Tabasco (or other pepper sauce)
4cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon dark rum
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)