Preserved Courgettes

So far we’ve got three different kinds of preserved courgettes.

Courgette and Pineapple Jam – yellow courgettes, seeded, peeled and cut up small. Set aside overnight dredged with sugar. It makes a syrup, and next day you boil it up with added tinned pineapple and a bit of lemon juice to help the set. It was very very sweet, I’ve added some lime juice. The fruit is almost crystallised and the jam is very clear. I’m wondering if putting in more glace-type fruit and citrus peel, and adding mustard might make something interesting in the cremona line.

Marrow Mangoes – we did the giant courgette soaked in vinegar and stuffed with spices for 10 days, straining and boiling every day. Now they’re sliced, and bottled with some of the vinegar boiled up with sugar. They’re supposed to sit now for three months.

Courgette Chutney – there was some vinegar left over from the “mangoes”. It went in a pan with some white and some brown sugar, 3 large yellow courgettes, one red and one white onion, two large cored cooking apples, and a handful of sultanas. Fruit and veg chopped fairly small, courgettes and apple unpeeled. The vinegar was sharp rather than warmly spiced – it had sat with fresh ginger, onion and horseradish in it – so I didn’t add spice, but did put in some peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (a fat piece about 3 inches long) and a good sprinkle of salt. It took a few hours to cook down – I started with a small amount of sugar and added more as we went along until it was the right sweetness and thickening well. It’s got a right punch, which I suspect will only increase as it matures. It’ll make great cheese sandwiches.

Christmas Fig Chutney

I was very taken, watching HFW and the River Cottage Christmas Fayre programme, with his Christmas Chutney. But when I went looking for it, it was the one recipe that wasn’t up on his website, bah humbug.

I’ve been meaning to try some recipes from my new (second-hand) copy of Jams, Pickles and Chutneys, and there’s one in there for Dried Fruit Chutney.

So from what I remembered from the telly, what I’d got in the cupboard, and using quantities from the book, I took:

8 oz baby dried figs, cut roughly
8 oz dried sweetened cranberries
4 oz pitted prunes
4 oz raisins
soaked together for about 20 mins with the grated rind of 2 oranges and the juice of half an orange

While that’s soaking, chop 12 oz each onions and apples. That was about 3 onions, 1 Bramley and a couple of red eating apples. Add 4 small cloves of crushed garlic. Fry them in a tiny tiny drop of oil, just to get them started, until they’re soft and you can’t smell the raw onion any more.

Tip in the fruit and juice, and add about half a pint of cider vinegar along with the rest of the juice from the 2 oranges. Stir and cook until the fruit is starting to plump up and soften and the vinegar is getting well absorbed.

Add another half pint of cider vinegar, and 2 good tablespoons of balsamic glaze flavoured with orange oil.

Bung in the spices:
a thumb joint sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped small
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp ground cloves
pinch paprika
2 tsps ground cardamom
2 tsps ground ginger

Stir all up well, let it come back to simmer and stir in, slowly, 24 oz muscovado sugar.

Simmer slowly until it’s thick and pulpy.

Update: it made a very large and two smaller jars. Dark and fruity, almost chewy in spots. It was ready to eat straight away, but about 6 weeks down the line the ginger is starting to come through more and the flavours are really developing. It’s not dried out as much as I was afraid it would, but it’s not a sopping wet chutney. Just right for cheese sandwiches.

Chutney Weather

This week is damp and chill, especially after the last month of sun. Time to huddle in the kitchen with some overblown opera and make chutneys.

Peach Chutney

I made a lovely one earlier in the year and lost the notes, boo. Peach chutney for me should be like the Sharwoods one used to be, thick and dark and ultra-sweet. But with a bit of a kick. Which means a standard chutney, made with dark sugar and a heavier vinegar, and cooked that little bit longer. So in today’s pot there are:

  • 8 medium size peaches, slightly past their eating best, cut in half and stones removed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 huge teaspoons garlic puree
  • 2 huge teaspoons ginger puree
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 200 mls cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Cooked down to a thick consistency, peaches cut up a bit with a spoon, with a few spoonfuls of liquid left to stop it drying out in the pot. Yeech, that’s hot. Put up in a sealed jar and leave for a few weeks to really settle in. Chutneys like this are good in cheddar cheese sandwiches, with cold ham salad, or as part of an Indian pickle tray.

Rhubarb / Apple Chutney

I have 2 sticks of rhubarb left to play with, and a couple of baking apples left over from a dinner last week. I’m aiming for a light wet chutney, where the bulk of the fruit has turned to a puree with some tiny onion pieces for texture.

  • 2 sticks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways then into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Bramley cooking apples, cored and cut into pieces a similar size to the rhubarb, not peeled
  • 1 small white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp each pureed garlic / ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 oz white sugar
  • 200 mls white wine vinegar, split into 150/50 ml portions

Put the bigger amount of vinegar in the pot, add rhubarb, sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, salt. Stir about a bit. and bring to simmer. Add apple pieces, sprinkle with the remaining vinegar (so raw apple doesn’t brown). Put the lid on the pot and leave it for about half an hour. Stir it up briskly, raise the heat, and cook it until it is a thick sauce, and all the big pieces of fruit have turned to mush. It’s like a super-tart apple sauce with threads of greeny-pink rhubarb running through it.

Again, I’m going to pot up in a sealed jar, but I’m tempted to keep it in the fridge in case it doesn’t have enough preservative in it. It’ll be brill cold with roast pork, blue cheese, even a good old fried breakfast with black pudding and thick bacon.

Rhubarb Rhubarb

In the veggie box this week, there was rhubarb. It’s a pearly light green fading to dusky pink, crisp like celery, and smells so fresh and sharp. As a rule we don’t eat puddings, and I don’t do a lot of baking. So although my very soul cries out Crumble! and Custard! my brain is saying, no, think savoury, it came in the veggie box, after all.

I asked Twitter, and it said chutney / relish / salsa, or soup. Research into soup found some amazing Scandinavian recipes for cold soups, with herbs and cream. Mint, or dill. Those do sound fab, but the weather is still just too wintry for a chilled sharp soup.  Chutney? mmm, tempting. Something light and lemony, with a white vinegar. Or thick and dark brown, with added dried fruit.

Still not quite right, though. So I went and asked Teh Internetz Proper, and there was an underlying stream of Middle-Eastern recipes using rhubarb in pilaffs, sweet and sour sauces with meat, and tagine-type dishes. Of course, I thought, anywhere you would put preserved lemon, or lots of pomegranate, you could fiddle around with it and use rhubarb. Different texture, and you have to take the bulk of it into account.

In the oven at the moment, pootling along at Gas Mark 4, is a chicken and rhubarb dish. It started out as:

3 chicken thighs, skin browned in a plentiful amount of olive oil.

Plus:

  • 1 fat leek, chopped
  • 3 giant cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
  • Cinnamon stick, cumin seed, red chilli flakes, dried oregano, dried mint, black pepper
  • 2 sticks of rhubarb, peeled to remove any strings, and cut in  pieces, about 2 cms.

I turned the chicken over so the skin side was up, browned the other side in the now spicy oil, and added enough chicken stock to cover the veg and leave the chicken skin dry to roast it. (Which also gave it some salt.)

After about half an hour or so, I shall investigate and see how sharp it is. At that point I may add something sweet if it needs it – apricot puree, dates, straight sugar, pomegranate molasses. The leek and garlic should have mellowed it out a bit.

Or I may leave it tart, and make a sweeter couscous to go with it and balance it off.

I’ll finish it with some fresh mint, or maybe put that in a cucumber and sorrel salad.

If it works, there is more in next week’s box. I’m running through my preserved lemon favourites – duck and black olives, pork or lamb stuffed with apricots and pistachios …

Cranberry Lime Chutney

We've been clearing out a bit, and I came across a box file full of my old American magazines. A copy of Cuisine, from December 1984, not only had full-page ads for cigarettes, but also some interesting recipes. This Cranberry Lime Chutney was a reader request from Rooney's restaurant in Rochester NY, where it was served with mesquite-grilled mallard breast. It's really simple, just put all the ingredients in a heavy pan, boil, simmer, stirring, until thick, which should take about 45 minutes. It looks like a proper preserving chutney, there's enough sugar and acid in there, it would certainly keep a while in a sealed jar in the fridge. They suggest that you could serve it warm.

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large orange, peeled, pith removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 medium tart apple (Granny Smith) peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice

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Dried Fig and Sour Cherry Chutney

A Nick Nairn recipe from Good Food December 2001. Dried figs are great, we always have them around on the holidays, but there's also usually quite a lot left over. This says serve straightaway or "leave to mature", which probably means it's a bit late to make for this year, but making it in January time and putting somewhere dark and cool for several months would work. This quantity says to make 1.5 pints, which is a couple of reasonable size preserving jars or one big one.

 

  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 in piece root ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsps mustard seeds (doesn't say what colour)
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 3 x 75 gm packets dried sour cherries (or cranberries)
  • 250 gms / 9 oz dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 cooking apple, peeled and chopped
  • 100gms / 4 oz light muscovado
  • 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic, 2 -3 minutes. Add ginger, mustard, chilli, dried fruit, apple and sugar, salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the vinegar and 300 mls / half pint cold water. Stir and boil. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, make sure it doesn't catch, or until the liquid has nearly all evaporated and the chutney is thick. Serve as is or put in a sterilised preserving jar and mature.

Sounds good – texture, acid versus sweet versus heat, all the elements of a good chutney. Not sure I'd use red wine vinegar, cider would be fine and slightly lighter. It's not so easy now to get the dried sour cherries, the supermarkets seem to have switched to sweeter ones. But I get barberries (sumac berries) from the local Middle-Eastern grocer, which are really sharp sharp sharp, and a mixture of those with the sweet cherries has worked well in vodka flavourings. Some asafoetida (hing) would give some of the sourness back as well.

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