Tomato and pork sausage ragu
Photo by Kieran Scott
My brother and I were educated in different directions. I travelled north. Paul went southeast to boarding school in Oamaru.
It seemed exotic; driving up the one-lane road to his school gates filled me with excitement. It’s what I imagined arriving at the Vatican City might be like. All those beautiful stone buildings, tall church spires and wooded hills. The grounds of the school in the late afternoon light shone emerald green and the thin vertical silhouettes of the Marist Brothers and schoolboys gliding along, transformed it into one of those abstract paintings I’d seen in books neatly stacked in the art room at my school.
Driving home in the winter after dropping Paul off for another term would take you from soft pink dusk to darkness. I would lie on the back seat of the family Holden and stare out of the oversized back window at the sky, watching the stars slowly appear. My Dad would drive silently with just the radio murmuring a cricket broadcast from a sunny morning in England or the scratchings from the last race at Addington.
My school was a day school. It was just as far away from home as my brother’s, but we went every day by bus. 5 years staring out oversized windows at a landscape that barely changed. I loved my school because it was my father’s school. I could trace his short journey from ruddy cheeked boy to angular rugby forward in the old school photos that hung in the corridor. I would put a sticky index finger over his face telling whoever was standing still long enough to hear that that was my dad, right there, leaving a fingerprint shroud over his face for him to stare out of. A screenprint of our shared DNA.
Recently I made a journey with my son that reminded me of those things we remember — some wonderful and others not so. I realised we can give memories, things that affect the way we travel through life and it’s no easy task getting the recipe right.
My son and I cooked, camped and journeyed our way to the other end of the country and then I left him there to exercise his right of being an adult. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The airlock we created in the cabin of our car and in the tent that we shared at night burst open and spilled its purified self on to the pavement outside his college. A memory.
But if I ever want to step back to the time we spent on the road together, all I need to do is cook. I’ll make something he made me. Something he makes very well and has, I’m sure, become part of our family’s shared DNA. A beautiful tomato and pork sausage ragu, savoury, sharp and built in one pot over a gas burner. Maybe one day he’ll walk down the isle of a supermarket and press his finger on a can of crushed Italian tomatoes and say to whoever might be by his side, “Hey, that’s my dad, right there.’’
The kitchen version
- Chop the tomatoes and peppers to roughly the same size, halve the bulb of garlic and place them all in a roasting dish. Drizzle over some olive oil, sprinkle on thyme leaves and salt and roast in a hot oven until everything is well cooked — even a wee bit charred.
- Put the peppers and tomatoes in a bowl and squeeze in the garlic pulp. Mash it all together or blitz in a food processor.
- Fry the onion gently in olive oil. Add chilli flakes and squeeze the pork meat from its casings in tablespoon sized lumps into the pan. Fry until golden. Add the tomato mixture, season to taste and simmer.
- Serve over cooked spaghetti with grated parmesan.
For the one-pot camping version
Disregard the oven roasting step and add a tin of crushed tomatoes to the onion and sausage mixture when cooked. Simmer and serve on a tin plate and bask in the warm afterglow of some distant wonderfully rewritten memory.