FOOD! Cheat’s “arrabiata” sauce

I think this post is sponsored by the rage I felt at seeing a bottle of Dolmio on sale at a WH Smith’s at the local hospital for a whopping £2.99. Why do people buy this stuff? It’s awful and doesn’t taste like any of the ingredients that are purported to be in it. Apologies if you very much enjoy a ‘Dolmio Day’ but any pre-made sauce, of any brand or supermarket origin, just feels like a waste because it’s very easy to make your own sauce.

So this is my fall-back sauce. I very much enjoy whipping up my bolognaise, a Nigella spaghetti with lemon and garlic breadcrumbs, or a walnut and parsley pesto, but when I’m hungover and/or starving, this “arrabiata” hits the spot.

An arrabiata is a tomato and chilli sauce, which this definitely is, but without any of the skill that it probably should be made with. But then again it’s very simple, and I’ve whipped it up several times when my head should be firmly on a pillow in a darkened room. Add a few more fancy ingredients and extra cooking time and this could probably be a dinner party dish….. or, y’know, a Tuesday lunch when working from home. Whatevs.

Anyway, you need the stuff below.

Extra virgin olive oil; chillies; white onion; garlic; tin of chopped toms
Extra virgin olive oil; chillies; white onion; garlic; tin of chopped toms

These are store cupboard essentials for me. If you don’t have fresh chillies then crushed chilli flakes will serve you just as well. I sometimes add some for an extra kick anyway.

Crushed chilli flakes
Crushed chilli flakes

The one thing you definitely need is a food processor. This is the key ingredient, so-to-speak, of this sauce because it excludes the need for proper chopping and produces a smooth-ish sauce. A stick blender would probably assist and achieve a similar effect but you would need to chop the veg much finer.


Speaking of which, the chopping is very easy. Top and tail the onion, remove the skin and then chop into rough wedges. Top and tail the garlic and peel, then remove the stalks from the chillies and cut each in half. I use two red chillies but if you wanted an element of freshness then a green one would probably be tasty. Go mad if you dare! Just bear in the mind that the heat comes from the seeds of the chilli, which I don’t remove. If you’re chillis are small then you might want to think about removing the seeds but this is supposed to be a hot sauce.


Pour the chopped toms into the processor and start whizzing on a slow speed. Now add the veg using the feeder at the top and carry on whizzing until you have a slightly bitty looking sauce.


To cook the sauce, add a glug (roughly a tablespoon) of extra virgin olive oil to a pan – I use a frying pan just for a larger surface area so the sauce reduces slightly – heat the oil and add the sauce. A decent oil is good in this case because it’s going to contribute to the flavour as opposed to being just for frying purposes, so I use my supremely poncy organic Palestinian olive oil from Whole Foods. Oooooh, pretentious and pricey! But also tasty!

Morals taste good!
Morals taste good!

Now it’s just a case of heating the sauce through. I like it to thicken so just keep it on a low heat until I can see where the level has lowered on the side of the pan. Or until my pasta is ready. The point is that it doesn’t need to cook per se so keep an eye on it and don’t have the heat too high. Feel free to season to taste.

I like this with white pasta spaghetti. I cook the pasta in a big pan, drain, pour back in the pan and then pour in the sauce to combine (you should always add pasta to sauce, not the other way around – Ed/Loz). Oh yeah, that’s the stuff right there.


Dinner/lunch/tea/supper/snack is served. My lunch today was particularly satisfying with a sneaky can of diet cola and some sautéed kale to up my iron intake and relieve some of the carb guilt.


Do let me know if you attempt this and how you fare – I would love to see snaps and your modifications. Samples of your own cheat’s arrabiata are always gratefully received!



Category: Life
heart sand

On living with M

I lived in a house with one or more parents until I was 34.  Seeing that written down feels weird, but for the most part that’s because other people reading it will find it weird; while there were frustrations, sharing a house with my mum didn’t get in the way of much and there’s always been a bunch of beds/sofas/mattresses at friends’ houses to choose from.  It was just the way it worked out for various reasons- some stemming from my parents’ divorce, some not-  and I’ve always had an unusually close, supportive, and respectful relationship with my mum.  I also have never had any desire, even when I’ve felt a mite stifled or childish, to live on my own.  Friends, family, a partner: yes.  But not on my own: that’s a very quick way to minor depression for me.

When I met M I think we tried not to move too quickly, even while emotionally we were speeding out of sight.  We didn’t see each other every night, and work trips and my social life (and the fact that M couldn’t really have one) meant that we had space from each other.  Except that by six months I was staying at M’s house so often, and hanging there even when he was out, that the writing was pretty much on the wall: we live together now.

I had always taken the view that moving in together would be huge, and if the timing was wrong that it could spell absolute disaster.  And I still think that, but I feel that at my age I’m in a better position to know what I want and what I’m able to adapt to.  And in so many ways it’s felt stupidly easy.  I’ve sat in bars and pubs asking my co-habiting friends whether they found it difficult when they first moved in together: I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Or I did.  It turns out that I had interpreted my difficult to be the same as other people’s difficult, which it isn’t.  We split the chores, and although we’re both messy and that can irritate, we’re mostly pretty considerate people.  Where I realise my difficult comes in to play is when it comes to feelings.  I have all the feelings, and I’m a naturally very emotional person.  I’m also resilient, supportive, and fairly alright company, and my emotional side makes me a better friend and partner.  But I do realise that I’m used to living with someone who’s known me all my life and who’s able (pretty much) to gauge my moods and knows the tricks to make me feel better, or to take care of me.  Which me and M are still navigating.  We have an agreement that I need to signpost M to what I need because I’m not that easy to read, and also because I’ve had those very emotional relationships and he hasn’t in the same way.  But it’s not easy when you’re upset to tell someone that you feel they’re handling the situation wrong or you need something else.  I try to guess what people need and I think I do ok but it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to be able to do that with me.

I also have a characteristic that I’m sure can be very tiring for the person I live with. I have a need for things to feel special, or an occasion, or marked in some way.  I’m not sure where it comes from, or rather I do but I can’t quite articulate it.  I know I want to be present and I like things to be deliberate- I really am not one for channel-surfing and ending up with half an old episode of Only Fools and Horses.  I think the concept of ‘occasion’ is a throwback to my childhood: up until quite late in my parents’ marriage, occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, and holidays were sacred.  People put aside their differences and made nice for a couple of days, and we had fun things to eat and drink.  I can’t quite unpick exactly where this need comes from and why I need a sense of ceremony on a bog-standard Saturday night, but I do.  I do my best not to dictate our weekends, and it’s worth noting that somehow marking the evening can be as small as picking something nice for tea, or watching a film instead of something from the Sky planner.  It’s just important to me that we’re present, I guess.  Similar to my feelings about marriage, I want to be actively being in our relationship, not coasting or sleepwalking through it.

I carry with me a fear, always, that I am being emotionally demanding or dictatorial.  While I think we are usually excellent communicators, a recent row proved that pussyfooting around and thinking that we’re being considerate essentially ends up amounting to (benign) dishonesty, and potentially feeling a bit hard done by.  It’s a tricky balancing act between signposting a need and making a demand, I suppose.  But we’re not doing too badly.

Category: Life

True Moments When I have Lived

I stumbled across a quote from Oscar Wilde on Pinterest the other day that read, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” Aside from my first reaction, which was disappointment at reading this on a social media site as opposed to a dusty tome (that’ll be the middle class pseudo-intellectualism coming out…), I felt the truth of the quote running through my like a modest wave of recognition.

Because that quote is so bloody true! Between the struggles to earn a living, look after family and try to carve a life out for ourselves, the time we actually spend to experience and feel is limited. Living is the joy, the rush, sometimes the fear or the pain, but you know it when you do it. After the recognition came a beautiful current of electricity when I realised that I have had moments of truly living, which was a relief as my default setting is rather moribund and depressing on the subject of my own achievements.

So allow me, if you will, to share these more recent moments with you. What are yours? I’d love to know! A lovely little follow-up could be on the cards with some shared moments. How nice!

Helicopter ride


I turned 30 in 2012 and my mum bought me an experience voucher for a helicopter ride. It was only a twenty minute affair in a small craft at a local airfield but I LOVED IT! The exhilaration, the fear, the James Bond-esque delight when I walked under the propellers… The fact that I got my husband on the same flight as me for twenty quid was just smashing too.

Swimming in a waterfall


2012 was clearly a good year for living as this was also the year I went to Goa (where I did so many wonderful things I really need to do another post) and swam in a waterfall. Small confession: I didn’t swim right underneath it, but I did get close and the falls themselves were beautiful. I felt brave, empowered, and in awe of nature. Marvellous.

New family


In 2006 I discovered that I had an older sister and niece that I’d never known about. It was the single most maturing experience of my life, being both wonderful and scary at the same time. My sister Ginny is a mythical beast of intelligence, humour, and pure shopping ability, and she was my sister from the moment we first timidly spoke on the phone on an August evening nearly 8 years ago. She has since been my bridesmaid along with my niece Kate and has shared in various life events, as well as providing a place of solace and much wine with her home in Swansea. Beautiful and real are some of the best words to describe my sudden family explosion.

Wet ‘n’ Wild in Mexico   



Last year me and my husband went to our first ever wedding abroad which also became our first ‘proper’ holiday with friends ever. And it was very cool! Imagine the happy vibe of a wedding for a whole week at an ultra all-inclusive resort in Cancun…. Doesn’t get much better really! One of the best days was the group trip to Wet ‘n’ Wild where we not only got to party on a boat on the way over, but got to play in an awesome wave machine once we got there. My husband and I have a particular fondness for waves and took turns in dragging each other in a rubber ring to where the waves hit hardest. It was pure unadulterated FUN and I think it should be prescribed on the NHS.

Offspring gig 2009


Big sis Loz has opened my cultural horizons on many occasions but none more so than my first proper gig experience at the Brixton Academy to see The Offspring. Everything fell into place: a couple of bottles of beer got us on our way at dinner before the music started and the venue is one of the few to boast a cloakroom, allowing for maximum dancing potential without being a danger to fellow music-lovers. We danced, we drank, we stuck out heads out the train window screaming into the night on the way home. Although we’ve enjoyed Gogol Bordello, Metallica, Green Day, and Linkin Park since, that gig was the best of my life so far.

Wedding Day


I have never known time to go so slowly and yet so fast as on my wedding day. The walk up the stairs to the ceremony room felt like it took a year but then the ceremony was over in seconds. The moment I felt more connected to the soul of the universe (sorry – the memory makes me come over all unnecessary) was when we started to recite our vows and my now-husband turned to me to look me in the eyes as he pledged himself to me forever. I have never meant it more than when I said, with every ounce of being that I had, that I would love him forever, and that connection is one that has not been matched since. Which is surely a good thing seeing as it was my wedding day n’all!

Category: Life