OK, I’ll pose the question on the tip of your tongue: what’s tomato ketchup doing in the Feed Me section? Answer: all good Aussies, north Americans, English, Irish and Scots love to dob lashings of dead ’orse (sauce) on any main course, but most often on barbecued sausages.
There are dozens of theories as to how the term ketchup (occasionally catsup), describing the vinegar- and sugar-enhanced tomato puree, entered our language—or more particularly the language of north America—those from the sophisticated English-speaking countries of England, Ireland and Australia preferring “sauce” to describe the red, thick, tasty condiment that enhances so many plain dishes. (More and more, tomato sauce has become the descriptor for the partner for many pasta dishes, as with Roast Tomato Sauce, page 125, so we’re calling it ketchup to differentiate.)
Debate rages among those fascinated by language derivations as to the source of “ketchup”: did it come from Chinese, Malay, Arabic, or half a dozen European languages or dialects? The fascination in the etymology extends to the making of the sauce itself: if you start with the basics, i.e. tomato puree, vinegar, sugar and salt—plus garlic, ginger and chilli to your taste—then you have a platform for any model you like. You can go fiery, as the chilli freaks are wont to do, or subtle, or fruity, or spicy, or a combination of the lot.
What’s important is getting the base model right; as with so much in cooking, the rest belongs to your imagination, what’s in the garden, what’s in your culture, what you (or more likely) your kids like, what’s in the cupboard; and, what the sauce/ketchup/catsup is to enhance. For most of us, the end result starts with a bottle of passata: the unenhanced puree of tomatoes generally grown and bottled in the southern boot of Italy. At the height of summer, using the fruits of the field (roma tomatoes are best) adds a purity to the final result, but for most of the year and for most lifestyles, a bottle grabbed from the supermarket shelves is our go-to starter.