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Hot tomato chutney

4 Sep
Jars of goodness

Jars of goodness

I sowed a few tomato seeds this year. And miracle, of miracle, most of them grew. They grew slowly, mostly because it’s been colder than usual all year, but they grew. And now I have a LOT of tomatoes.

I get my seeds from The Real Seed Company, which you should go visit if you have any interest in growing your own vegetables. They encourage you to save your seeds year on year, which if we all did, then they’d have no business. But mostly I don’t. And anyway, they have crazy unusual varieties of things, often from far flung parts of the world, and they have new seeds each year. I grew a Russian melon one year (I figured if it could grow in Russia it might just survive our Scottish summer) and this year I chose Grushovka and Urbikany bush tomatoes. The Urbikany comes from Siberia, and the Grushovka sounds like it’s of Russian extraction too. Anyway, so far I’ve picked 7.4kg of tomatoes, so I’ve been eating quite a lot of my favourite tomato salad: panzanella. It’s got that perfect balance of flavours and textures, and also uses up 2 or 3 day old sourdough bread (if any ever gets to be that age in our house!).

I’ve been making my super tasty tomato sauce (to use on pasta) which I’ll share with you later.

But for now… Another of my favourite tomato recipes is my hot tomato chutney. It’s super-easy to make and is the perfect accompaniment to cold meats or cheese. In fact when I’ve got a jar of it in the cupboard, it gets added to almost every sandwich, or salad platter. It’s just sweet enough, and just hot enough, with that lovely tang of sharpness too.

I’ve been making it for years, so don’t really know why it’s taken so long to add the recipe here. Anyway, here we go:

Hot tomato chutney

  • 1.8kg tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 red chillies
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 1TBsp salt
  • 300ml vinegar (malt, or it works well with a mix of red wine and cider vinegar)
  1. Peel the tomatoes. You know how to do this, right? OK, here’s how I do it. With a wee sharp knife, just nick the skin of each tomato, you don’t need to go through all the flesh, just break the skin. Now put a full kettle on to boil, and pop some of the tomatoes into a big heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the tomatoes. Leave them for a wee minute, and then, using a holy willie spoon (that’s a slotted spoon), take a tomato out, and using your fingers, peel/slip the skin off the tomato. Repeat. And repeat and repeat again until all the tomatoes are peeled.
  2. After you peel each tomato, roughly chop it straight into a large pan. It’s easiest just to do this while holding the tomato in your hand, over the pan, so you catch all the juice into the pot. Or chop them on a plate, so you catch all the juice and then just sloop the whole lot into the pan.
  3. Now, chop your onion, into small and even sized pieces and add this to the pot.
  4. Chop the chillies into teeny wee bits, and add them to the pan. If you only want a gentle heat, leave out the membrane and seeds, which are the super hot bits.
  5. Add the caster sugar and salt to the pot.
  6. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring as you go.
  7. Now simmer it for an hour and a half. Yes, an hour and a half. You should stir it occasionally, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, but you don’t need to hover over it all the time. Go read a book. Or water your tomato plants. Or whatever.
  8. Now add the vinegar to the pan, and stir again
  9. Bring it back to the boil and boil it, stirring occasionally, for 10 – 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you pull the spoon across the bottom of the pan, and it does a sort of “Moses Parting the Red Sea” thing, with the chutney ‘holding back’ and not immediately all slooping back into the base of the pan. You might not understand what I mean until you see your chutney doing it. But really, this is the best test I know for readiness of this chutney. If you weren’t simmering it on a hot enough heat earlier, this stage will take way longer than 15 minutes, which is fine. Just make sure it boils down enough to get that glossy look, and to ‘part the Red Sea’ or it will end up too runny and a bit rubbish.
  10. And that’s it. It’s ready to pop into sterilised jars. You’ll probably fill about four 350ml jars, and it will keep for around 4 months. It might keep for longer, but I’ve never had any last that long.

And, if like me, you have a glut of tomatoes, make lots of this. And tie pretty fabric squares to the pot lids, with a ribbon, and there you have your first homemade Christmas presents of the season.

Mini oatcakes with cheese & chutney or ham & chutney. You choose.

Mini oatcakes with cheese & chutney or ham & chutney. You choose.

 

May Bank Holiday Marmalade

4 May

So, I’m here in Galloway for 24 hours again. I love it here, especially in Spring. I probably say ‘especially in…’ every season, but it really is particularly gorgeous in Spring with the zingy lime green of the newly opened leaves on the trees, the wee calves and lambs boinging about in fields and everything just beginning to sprout. The whole countryside is full of hope, just bursting to get going. It’s almost as though it’s written itself the best list ever and now it’s ticking them off one by one: lambs – done; daffodils – done; primroses – done; magnolias – done; surprising late frost – done!

Yes, we had some lovely warm days a couple of weeks ago, fooling us into believing that we might have seen the last of the cold weather until the Autumn and then BANG! Several nights of relatively hard frost. A few of Mum’s shrubs were just beginning to poke their wee leaves out and now look as though they just might not bother at all  this year. And her magnolias had just flowered and now the flowers on them are all smooshy and ick, and the leaves haven’t appeared. So, despite it being beautiful, not everything is being ticked off on the list as it should.

So, we got here for lunchtime, which is always the best time in this house. The legendary Wolffe Lunch never disappoints. Today there was soup (of course) – a vegetable broth with barley – and then home-made bread with a choice of pates (smoked salmon, brussels or a ham hock terrine). There was green salad, olives, fresh beetroot in a delicate sweet vinegar, smoked salmon, cheese. And then coffee with madeira cake or mini pear cakes with white chocolate and gin frosting. Yes, I might have been responsible for that last element. They’re delicious. But more on them later.

After lunch I made some rhubarb marmalade. I think it’s really orangey rhubarb jam, but the recipe calls it rhubarb marmalade, so perhaps I should go with that.

The recipe is from my go-to preserves book: Jellies, Jams and Chutneys by Thane Prince. Trust me, she knows her preserves. Having said that, I often find myself boiling things for much longer than she recommends in her recipes in order to reach a set, so perhaps I just don’t boil things hard enough?

So this recipe is only slightly adapted from Thane’s original.

Rhubarb orangey jam (or rhubarb marmalade in her world)

  • 2lb 4oz rhubarb, wiped clean and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 1lb 12oz jam sugar
  • finely grated zest and the juice of the most enormous orange I have ever seen
  • about 2cm fresh ginger, grated
  • about 50ml liquid pectin
  1. Put the rhubarb, sugar, zest, juice and ginger into a heavy saucepan. Put it on a low heat and bring gently to a boil. I put mine on the low side of the rayburn and then went and put the bedding on to wash. Then I came back and stirred it a bit and put it on the hotter side of the rayburn. Then I remembered I hadn’t sterilised any jars, so I went to look for some nice jars in Mum’s cupboard under the stairs (she now lives in a bungalow, but the larder has always been called the cupboard under the stairs, so it still is). I washed the jars and then popped them on a tray and put them in the rayburn. Then I remembered I hadn’t yet put the saucer in the fridge, for testing for jamminess later. So I did that. And then I went to see what Mum was potting on: dahlias mostly. Then I went back and the pot was just about near boiling, with the sugar all dissolved and at least three times the juice there was last time I’d looked at it.
  2. Once it’s boiling, allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes. The fruit should be soft, the sugar all dissolved.
  3. Now take the pot off the heat for a minute and add the pectin and stir it all in gently. Return to the heat and boil properly for another few minutes. Thane suggested two minutes might do it. But then she didn’t use jam sugar, and used more pectin. Anyway, keep testing for a jamminess, by putting a wee teeny wee spoonful onto the cold plate from the fridge. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it’s ready. If it’s still runny, it’s not. Don’t do what I did. Don’t jar it up anyway, in the hope it might really be ready when it’s not. You’ll realise after a couple of jars that it wasn’t ready and that you need to boil it all up a bit further.
  4. Anyway, once it’s boiled enough and you’re sure it will set when cool, take it off the heat, and pour it into the sterilised jars. If you’re at my mother’s house you might not have a jam funnel, but you’ll find that a jug dipped into the pot of jam works almost as well. And anyway, if you don’t like sticky stuff, don’t make jam.
  5. Now, remember to put a label on the jars. It’s like sowing seeds – at the time you can’t imagine that you’ll ever forget what you planted in those wee pots on that shelf in the greenhouse. But in 4 weeks time you won’t know if it’s asters or arctotis; if it’s basque chillies or ohnivecs. And it’s better to know which is rhubarb jam and which is rhubarb chutney. I guess.

If you want the real Thane Prince recipe, with her considerably less wordy instructions buy her book. If you like making preserves you’ll be glad you did. And it’s got other delicious sounding things like spicy plum ketchup, and frozen cranberry vodka. Surprisingly, I’ve never made either so can’t vouch for them.

If you want to know what else I’ve been making, go here: Shewolffe recipes. You’ll find another version of this same recipe, which I should have checked before I started writing this one out. And rhubarb chutney. And various cheese scones, each one tastier and easier than the last. And a scrumptious millionaire’s shortbread. And so much more.

There isn’t yet a recipe for that wee pear cake with white chocolate and gin frosting. But there will be soon, so keep looking back.

Let me know what else you’d like to see here. What ingredients should I cook with next?

Apple chutney

5 Nov

Several years ago a friend off-loaded bags of apples on me. I put them in everything, but the favourite by far was the Apple Chutney from Judith Wills’ brilliant New Home Larder. It’s now my go-to chutney recipe and I think I’ve made it every year since. It’s a long long time since I had Branston Pickle, but I think this chutney might be similar to it, with a deep, dark colour and prefect balance of sharp and sweet.

Apple chutney

Apple chutney

Apple Chutney

  • 1.5kg apples
  • 750g onions
  • 1l malt vinegar
  • 500g sultanas
  • 1kg soft brown sugar
  • 1 dsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  •  1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp dry English mustard
  1. Pour the vinegar into a large heavy based pan
  2. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and pop them into the pan with the vinegar.
  3. Peel and chop the onions and add them into the pan too.
  4. Bring the apple, onion, vinegar mix to the boil and simmer for an hour.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar – it will go runny and glossy.
  6. Bring back to the boil and simmer again for around 30 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent it burning and sticking tot he bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with wax discs, then teh lids when cool.
  8. Store in a cool, dark place. Eat with cheese. Or cold meat.

You can adapt this recipe by adding some fresh or crystallised ginger, using different spices, or adding some chilli, but I think it’s pretty near perfect and doesn’t need any messing about.

If you want to see other recipes you’ll find them all listed here.

 

 

More delicious things to do with blackcurrants

14 Aug

Blackcurrants.

When you have a glut of them you REALLY have a glut of them.

I have a couple of wee blackcurrant bushes which are ignored for most of the year and this year were surrounded by chest high grass, nettles and dock leaves. I was sure there would be nothing to harvest. But of course I was wrong. Deliciously wrong.

I cropped the whole branches, placed them in my wicker trug and carried them upstairs to our terrace one evening, and spent a gentle hour picking the fruit, topping and tailing it ready for cooking. The swallows were swooping and swooshing around our heads, sometimes below us, sometimes so close we could feel the rush of air as they changed course just before their wings brushed our faces. It’s a glorious way to spend a summer evening, and the memory of it keeps me warm through the winter.

The blackcurrants this year were destined to be drinks, one alcoholic and one not.

My Mum has made blackcurrant cordial for years and I feel that in my late 40s perhaps it is time for me to give it a go. I have no children to turn their noses up at it, as it isn’t their usual brand (I always wished we had REAL Ribena when I was a child, not this wannabe pretender. Little did I know how lucky I was).

So, I searched for the perfect blackcurrant cordial recipe and settled for one by Henry Dimbleby, who started the Leon chain of fabulous eateries. I have four Leon books, but of course found this recipe online on the Guardian website. You can read the original here if you want to.  The recipe is pretty simple, but does include the addition of citric acid, which is a natural preservative, but also adds a zesty acidic zing to the juice. Citric acid is a natural compound, found in citrus fruit (of course!) but these days it is mass-produced as a chemical compound, and is more commonly known as E330 on food labels.

Blackcurrant cordial

  • 500g blackcurrants, topped and tailed
  • 275g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  1. Put the blackcurrants, sugar and water into a heavy-based pan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes
  2. Get your potato masher out and bash the fruity smoosh, breaking up as much of the fruit as you can
  3. Add the citric acid and boil for another 2 minutes
  4. Place a muslin cloth in a sieve (preferably a plastic one) and pour the fruity mixture into the sieve and leave to drip through .Don’t bother squishing it with a spoon or anything. Just leave it. Go pour yourself a gin and tonic, you probably deserve one
  5. Once it’s stopped dripping (I left mine overnight) throw out the detritus in the muslin cloth; keep the muslin and wash it, ready for another day.
  6. Decant the thick silky juice into a clean bottle and label it up, so you know this is the BC cordial and not the hooch. You don’t want to get that wrong, trust me!
  7. Dilute with water or sparkling water fora  refreshing summery drink. Or with prosecco if it’s cocktail hour already, which it must be somewhere.

But I also wanted to make a blackcurrant liqueur. And wouldn’t you know, there was a handy recipe in this month’s Good Food magazine.  Well, the recipe was for a Bramble liqueur, but it can be adapted for blackcurrants when I have a glut of blackcurrants and the brambles aren’t ripe yet.

So here you go:

Blackcurrant hooch (or boozy ‘bena)

  • 600g blackcurrants, topped and tailed (you could use frozen if that is all you can get hold of)
  • a bottle of good red wine
  • 500g sugar
  • some vodka or gin (the original recipe I now notice only asked for a large glass of vodka/gin but I poured in ahem a whole bottle)
  1. Put the currants into a large plastic or glass bowl and pour over the wine. Get that trusty potato masher out again and crush the fruit as much as you can. Cover the bowl with a tea towel (this keeps it dark-ish and keeps out all the flies we are plagued with this summer) and leave for a few days. Give it another smoosh with the potato masher every 24 hours or so.
  2. Pour the mixture through a plastic sieve lined with a piece of muslin.
  3. Tip the juice into a heavy-based pan and add the sugar. Actually it probably doesn’t really matter if your pan isn’t a heavy-based one – don’t avoid making this hooch just for the sake of an expensive pan.
  4. Heat up slowly, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved bring toa boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool and then pour in the vodka or gin. As much as you think is appropriate. I suspect my version with the large volume of vodka is not entirely appropriate, but we’ll see.
  6. Use a small jug, or a funnel and pour into clean dry bottles.
  7. Seal and label.
  8. It’s ready for drinking straight away, or you can put a ribbon round it and feel proud that you’ve made some Christmas presents already.

My blackcurrant ripple ice-cream recipe is here if this isn’t what tickles your sweet fancy today.

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