Friday, 20 November 2009

Readily salted

Did you hear that in the news? That ready-made pasta sauces generally contain a huge amount of salt? That some of St Jamie Oliver's are among the worst? That leading brands contain - on average - 25% more salt than supermarket substitutes? And that - in the worst cases - sauces are as salty as the same amount of seawater?

This is very bad news chez Bringing up Charlie. We eat a lot of pasta. And - although I lay claim to the status of domestic god (you should see me with a vacuum cleaner!) - I'm a polytheist as far as pasta sauces are concerned. They're for the gods of pasta sauce to make. You know, like Oliver, Grosssman, and the like. Lesser gods, maybe. (Let's drink a toast to the Almighty Floyd!) But we all have our niche here in the Valhalla of the kitchen.

I had a quick look in our cupboards. Armed with my trusty FSA Salt App of Righteousness I found this in our kitchen cupboards: a jar of Lloyd Grossman's curry sauce, with  0.5g sodium per 100g. That's ok; it's classed as 'medium'. Next, a Heinz Moroccan spicy paste is also ranked as 'medium' while the Chinese Sweet Chilli and Garlic sauce is impossible to assess as the ingredients seem to be in Swedish. Oh, and I seem to be out of pesto.

Apparently 80% of our salt-intake comes courtesy of the food industry (rather than our own cooking) and even a slight reduction in our intake could reduce strokes and heart attacks deaths by as much as 20,000 a year. There are tasty alternatives to using salt, too. The iPhone app has a a range of tips, such as using black pepper as seasoning instead of salt. The application's free and portable, so you can take it with you and compare the labels as you do the shopping. That is, if the jars you're buying have them. Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) who did the sauces survey found that over 70 of the 190 products tested contained no salt or sodium data whatsoever.

As for me, there's only one thing for it. Jamie Oliver's been sacked; Lloyd Grossman is demoted. From now on I intend to be my own sous chef, and make sauces of my own. I've got a blender; there's a twice-weekly market overflowing with fresh produce; and I've got a little pot plant growing chilli peppers. Now all I need is some recipes. Any offers?


  1. Oooh, don't I feel all rightous now making my own sauces and only keeping a jar in the cupboard for emergencies!

    You won't regret making your own, it is cheaper and tastier too! I normally make extra sauce and freeze it for next time, so try that!

  2. That is one seriously good idea Pippa. I'm really up for this, with all the passion of a convert... But I must confess I bought a jar of pesto yesterday!

  3. Oh I think I was an early understander of the fact that pasta sauces contained far too much salt not just for the minimads, but for us too. I have been making our own sauce for a while and there is a number of things you can do.

    Easy Tomatoe sauce

    Tin of chopped toms or pasata (if you prefer smooth)

    Chop onions, garlic and peppers and cook till soft, then add the pasata and season to taste. et voila.

    We also jarred some for keeping from out tomatoes see here

  4. I just need an iphone before I can get the application! Interesting post, Tim. Has made me think. Poor Jamie though. Such a nice lad.

  5. I love making pasta sauces. The easiest one needs no cooking, just heating through. Don't judge me, I'm very busy! A couple of tins of tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, black pepper. ground garlic, a few handfuls of frozen veg, few frozen onions. Just chuck it all in food processor, whizz til smooth and heat with cooked pasta. Sam adores it and it's vaguely healthy!
    Incidentally I loathe salt and never add it to anything. I don't see that it adds anything, I like my food without. Husband though is on for a heart attack before he's 45 with the amount of salt he slops on everything.

  6. Love it Jen, thanks so much. I'm on to it straight away...

    Nice, Rosie? But he's been feeding my family seawater! (I bet Nigella doesn't do that sort of thing...)

    Emma, that's fantastic. And who's judging? I've been using the Jamie jars for years - never again!

  7. crikey, i hadn't heard that news! just as well they are far too expensive for my budget. Just like seawater? Urgh.

  8. Everything in moderation, is what I say. Too much salt is particularly bad for you if you are overweight and of poor health in general. I am going through a phase of everything-out-of-a-jar, as I just don't have the energy to shop and cook the fresh stuff. There'll be times when I cook up my own stuff, that's for sure. But for now I've had enough of all these you shouldn't do this and shouldn't do that, it's freaking me out. Bring on the crisps!!

  9. This is scary i'll be stocking up on tinned tomatoes and making my own from now on, no more jars for me :(

  10. Make sure you always have a potted basil plant on the kitchen window sill, just need to add tom’s onion and garilc, season to taste, and you are sorted. Add fresh chillies for your spicy dishes, bell peppers for extra sweetness. The world is your lobster.

  11. I Laughed when I saw in the news that Jamie thought they were just going after him cos they needed another scapegoat and they'd already done Ramsey.

    I go for a can of chopped toms, a spoon of tomato purée, a dash of olive oil, seasoning and whatever else I feel like putting in at the time.

  12. That's annoying, I like a jar of sauce too. You'd think the makers would have come up with a suitable alternative by now.

  13. Good luck making your own. It's going to taste so much better as well as being good for you. I have to admit I don't make my own sauces, but I never buy a sauce for lasagne, spag bol etc anymore and just make my own up.

  14. Home made pasta sauces are great, and I'd definitely recommend some finely chopped onions and fresh basil to add into the pot. If you blend it long enough you could even turn it into tomato soup :)

  15. Ah crap I love the Jamie Oliver sauces. I'm way too lazy to make my own though - pasta is supposed to be quick and easy!

    My tip for a good bolognese sauce though is to add beer and worcester sauce, yum.

  16. This is a great point - and something that I have become very lax about. I do tend to make some simple pasta sauces (basically a can of chopped tomatoes - firegrilled are nice - with cream cheese and then any herbs or veg wilting at the bottom of the fridge) however it is amazing how much SUGAR is in a can of tomatoes! There is no escaping the additives of the food industry it seems. As for salt - I haven't added salt to my own cooking for years after being sodium conscious while in my 20s. Except for chips of course (but surely that doesn't count?)

  17. I am ashamed to admit that I read this post yesterday and STILL used a jar of store bought sauce last night AND I am a good cook who is perfectly capable of makingmy own yummy sauces. I have no excuse :( On a lighter note, I have a fabulous book to give away on my Chez Aspie blog from Sunday so please stop by and join in the fun. x

  18. commenting with my holistic hat on I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you want to eat wholesome, unadulterated food you have to cook from scratch. If it's not salt, its sugar and at best it's been heat treated for shelf life which means that by the time you eat it, well, it's a half food. I do understand that we all have busy lives, some busier than others, but it just requires rethinking what we feed our families. Preparing in advance and freezing, stir frying, slow cooking...and to be honest I do think that the thought of cooking fresh produce is often far mare scary than the reality...we're not talking about entering the Michelin guide, honest.

  19. Lloyd Grossman sauces really do rule. MadHoueRules' recipe is as good as I've seen, just make sure you simmer for ages to get it all nice and thick. At the end add maybe fresh basil, olives, ham, etc.

    I've just eaten a Lidl version of Curry Pot Noodle - I dread to think!? But My Girl got none of it ;)

  20. The only one I've attempted is an Arrabiata type affair for which I just use lots of chopped tomoatoes, chopped onions, olive oil, some chillis and... um.... sugar. Damn, I'm as bad as Jamie.


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