The Art of Sauces: Modern Tomato Sauce

We love a good sauce: it supports the flavours, it adds complexity to the dish and it brings components together. Orange sauce with duck, Béarnaise with beef, Sauce Mornay on a Croque Monsieur: the sauce is the key to the dish.

Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833) was the first chef to analyse sauces and create a classification. He identified four leading (mother) sauces and described how other sauces could be derived from these four. His four leading sauces are Espagnole (made with brown roux, roasted bones and brown stock), Velouté (white roux and light (veal) stock), Béchamel and Allemande (light roux with veal stock and thickened with egg yolks and cream). If for instance you want to make a Pepper Sauce, then you start by making a Sauce Espagnole.

Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935) refined the classification and replaced Sauce Allemande with Sauce Tomate as leading sauce. Later Hollandaise and Mayonnaise were added to the list of main sauces.

Sauce Tomate as prepared by Carême and Escoffier is very different from the sauce we use on pizza’s and pasta’s. It’s made with salted pork, veal stock, bones, various aromatic vegetables and of course tomatoes. Among the derived sauces are Sauce Portuguese and Sauce Provençal.
Next week we will share the Classic way of cooking Sauce Tomate in detail; today we share our modern (vegetarian) recipe.
The sauce freezes very well, so ideal to make a nice quantity.

What You Need

  • 4 – 6 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes (depending on the size)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (preferably grilled and peeled)
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Glass of Red Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

What You Do

Wash the tomatoes and slice in chunks. Peel the onion and chop. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Stir and add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced and seeded chilli. Let cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Reduce heat. Add the chopped garlic clove. After 5 minutes or so add the sliced tomatoes, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours minimum to simmer. Remove the bouquet garni and blender the mixture. Pass through a sieve and leave to simmer for another 2 hours. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer.

PS Grilling a bell pepper: slice the pepper in large slices. Set your oven to grill, put a sheet of aluminium foil on the baking tray, put the slices on the foil, skin up and transfer to the oven, as close to the grill as possible. Wait for 10 minutes or until the skin is seriously burned. Transfer the slices to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait for an hour. Using your fingers and perhaps a knife, peel of the skin. Store the bell pepper and the juices in the refrigerator. The taste is deeper and sweeter compared to raw bell pepper.

Grilled Swordfish with a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Red List

Before we start cooking, be aware that Swordfish is on the Greenpeace red list, so try to find the origin of your swordfish. Having done that assess the quality of the swordfish. No doubt it was frozen, so an extra reason to look carefully and smell. As always: if fish smells like fish, then don’t buy it.
If swordfish looks it has been pre-prepared (sometimes salt or smoke are used) or the flesh is not transparent: don’t buy it. For some reason you need to be extra critical when buying swordfish. But once you’ve found good, fresh swordfish, you have found yourself a great starter.
Also note that swordfish is a predator. Some organisations mention the risk of mercury when eating swordfish, so don’t eat it too often we would say.

If you scan the various recipes for swordfish, you will notice the massive use of marinades. We would not suggest using a marinade when preparing swordfish. The fish has a delicate, slightly sweet taste, which begs for a clever combination, not for a taste bomb like a marinade.
Often the fish is brushed with a mixture of oil and lemon. Sorry, wrong idea. Lemon is probably used to hide a fishy taste (in which case you shouldn’t have bought the fish). The lemon juice will burn when grilling because of the sugar in the juice, so your grilled stake will not just be grilled, it will also show traces of burned sugar. Not tasty, not healthy, not pleasant.
There are only three things you need to do pre grilling swordfish: prepare your tomato sauce, transfer the steak 30 minutes prior to grilling from the fridge to a plate and brush generously with a decent olive oil.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our grilled swordfish with a glass of Radacini from the Codru region in Moldova. The wine is made from chardonnay grapes and comes with a beautiful yellow colour. It made us think of apricots and maybe a touch of vanilla. It is not oaked, which is an exception for chardonnay. A wine with a round, velvety taste, but also fresh and fruity. The mouth feel is coating. The velvety aspect goes really well with the fish and the fruitiness is a great combination with the sweetness of the sauce. As an alternative go for an un-oaked, fruit-forward chardonnay.

What You Need

  • Steak of Swordfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Shallot
  • Chilli
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 Garlic gloves
  • 2 Anchovies fillets
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • Bouquet Garni (Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley)
  • Capers (in brine)

What You Do

Start by slicing the shallot and glaze it gently in olive oil. Cut half of the bell pepper and the chilli in smaller chunks and add to the pan. Stir and then add the garlic. Cut the tomatoes in quarters, add the tomato meat to the sauce and press the remainder through a sieve, making sure you get all the lovely juices. Add the juice to the sauce. Add the bouquet garni and the anchovies. Leave on small heat for two hours.
Remove the bouquet garni, blender the sauce very well and make sure it is a spicy combination of tomatoes and a touch of bell pepper.
Brush the steak generously with olive oil, heat your grill (we use a Le Creuset pan, see picture) and grill for maybe 8 minutes. The meat of swordfish is firm and needs longer than you would expect when grilling fish.
Serve the fish on a hot plate with the tomato sauce. The capers are crucial; they add a bit of acidity, which works really well with the spiciness of the sauce and the gentle sweetness of both the fish and the tomatoes.

PS In case your swordfish looks great but is from the wrong region according to Greenpeace, simply buy the fish, enjoy eating it and donate some money to Greenpeace.