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.

Spicy Crusted Lamb Shoulder

I have a kilo of lamb shouder, the blade half with the bone in. I'm marinating it and plan to cook it without added liquid, in foil, very long and very slow until it falls apart. The marinade at the moment consists of:

  • a small tub of organic greek yoghourt
  • grated peel of one unwaxed lemon
  • 2 teaspoons pureed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chiplotle chilli powder

Roasted together:

  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole brown small mustard seed

The lamb should be sweet itself, no need to add honey or anything like that. The yoghourt and the lemon will tenderise it even more. There's a bit of heat from the chilli and the mustard (although mustard does fade on cooking). Some genial warmth and more scent from the coriander and cumin. A little sharpness and aniseed from the fennel,.

I'm tempted to add some more mid-tone warmth, ginger for example. I shall think on that. I could just introduce that in a ginger and cinnamon biriani to go with it.

THE NEXT DAY: the yoghourt was so good and thick that it has made a crust on the meat, so I have put it as is into a low oven, Gas 2.5. It's had about an hour so far and I can smell the coriander.

IN THE END: about 5 hours in the oven. The crust was dark brown, spicy and crunchy, the meat underneath was rich, moist, tender, fell off the bone, and was gently scented. We've scoffed the lot, with a wet rice with orange, ginger and warm spices. (Recipe coming in a bit.)

The key is the quality of the yoghourt, the thick Greek stuff holds together as a paste, the ordinary thinner stuff would be a marinading liquid and would cook away.

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Proper Chilli

I had a recipe years ago, on a scratty bit of paper. An award-winning chilli cook-off recipe, from somewhere in Texas. The bit of paper is long gone, but Heston reminded me of how much fun it was to make, and I started again from basic principles. As follows.

Day 1, Pan 1

  • 4 rashers of pork belly, about half a kilo
  • Splash of sunflower or other light oil
  • 3 teaspoons chipotle paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 x 275 ml bottle lager beer

Fry the pork in the oil in an oven-proof casserole, top with the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours in a low oven, Gas Mark 2-3. Or longer if possible. Allow to cool.

Day 1, Pan 2

  • 1 onion
  • Splash of light oil
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 500 gms beef mince (quite fatty)
  • 2 tsps oregano
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 2 handfuls chopped coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp ground ancho chilli
  • 1 tbsps tomato puree
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 mug good concentrated beef stock
  • 1 tsp Splenda or sugar

Fry the onion, chilli and garlic in the oil. When everything's softened and starting to brown a little bit at the edges, add the mince. Sprinkle the spices and herbs on top of the slab of mince, and mix it all together, cutting and stirring until the meat is well-seasoned and brown. Add the puree, tomatoes, stock and sweetener. Cover and simmer very slowly for about 3 hours, adding water if necessary. It shouldn't be dry at this stage. Cool in the pan overnight.

Day 2 (or 3)

Take the meat out of the jelly in pan 1 and cut it into small pieces. Some will just fall into shreds, that's fine. Tip the whole lot, meat, jelly and fat into pan 2. Heat very slowly and mix together. Simmer gently for 2 – 3 hours, After about an hour, add 4 fresh tomatoes chopped up. The longer you cook it, the drier and milder it will get.

Serve with whatever you like – we had sour cream, avocado chunks, chopped fresh tomato, chopped fresh coriander, refried beans and savoury cornbread. You could have rice, tortillas, nachos, cheese, guacamole.

You can add beans to the chilli if you want, but it will seriously mess with the seasonings. This is a very mild chilli anyway, if you want it hotter, don't cook it for so long, use more raw chillis at the beginning, or add your favourite ground chilli with the ancho – something a lot hotter. I like the smoky taste, I would put in maybe crunched up smoked hot chillis.

It was enough for a good-sized dinner portion for 2, a couple of lunch portions cold, and a couple of dinners in the freezer. With side dishes, it would easily feed 6 – 8 for a dinner, it's very rich.

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Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

As part of my 70s retro Thanksgiving, I decided to get most of my recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I have a copy of the 1976 edition, which I bought in the early 80s. When push came to shove on the Pumpkin Pie, though, I went with the recipe on the can of pumpkin. How traditional is that? I don't like to buy Libby's brand, because its Nestle, but it's pretty much the only one you can get in the UK. So, here it is, translated.

Start with an unbaked pastry pie-shell. Most of the standard UK pre-bought ones are shallow, if you're using those you'll need two for this quantity of filling. Otherwise make your favourite pastry in a 9" diameter deep flan tin, with a removable bottom. I then put mine on a metal tray, just to make it easier moving it about.

To each 15 oz can of pumpkin, you'll need:

3/4 cup (about 6 oz) sugar (I used a light brown)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (12 fl oz) evaporated milk (I found a light version)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.

Mix the sugar and seasonings. Beat the eggs, add the pumpkin and sugar mix. Beat well, and gradually add the milk until you have a smooth custard. Pour into the pie shells. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce to Gas Mark 4. Bake for 20-30 minutes more for shallow pies, or 40-50 minutes for the deeper ones, until a skewer comes out clean.

You can eat it warm, but I like it better if you chill it until the next day, it firms up better. Cream and / or ice-cream – I have some good quality vanilla ice-cream for tomorrow. They do warn you not to freeze the pie as it will separate.

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Legendary Sprout Kebabs

Following this post last year, I made some sprout kebabs for a belated Bonfire Party last night. I didn't get very extravagant, I thought I'd try out the basic idea before messing with it.

I microwaved a pack of trimmed brussels sprouts for 7 minutes, which was the recommendation on the pack, and let them cool. I made a little bowl of spice mix using roughly ground black pepper, allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. I took a rasher of smoked streaky bacon, dipped an end in the spices, and rolled it around a sprout until it had gone all the way round and little bit over to secure it. Stuck a bamboo skewer through it, and cut off the excess bacon. It worked out at two sprouts balls per rasher, and I put two on each skewer. I tried originally dunking the sprouts in the spice mix, but it didn't stick, whereas it clung nicely to the fatty bacon.

Cooking times would depend on method, I put them on a barbeque on a windy November evening, so they took a while, and didn't get really golden and crisp.

The sprouts were soft and delicate, with surprisingly little of that overcooked metallic brassica taste. The spice mixture set the whole thing off a treat. Most people tried one, which I didn't expect, and liked them as well. Alice is thinking about doing them as a vegetable / garnish at Christmas. We discussed the hot bread sauce as a dip to go with them, and that would certainly make a winter party item.

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Red Couscous

Following the M&S couscous salad the other week, I decided to make something similar for a party tomorrow. I got down a big mixing bowl, and:

Filled it about a third full with dry couscous and added a little salt and enough boiling water to cover it plus about half an inch, and left it for 5 minutes.

Got out the food processor and roughly chopped:

  • a large red onion
  • a seedless clementine
  • half a packet of frozen raw cranberries
  • a handful of organic dried apricots

When the couscous had absorbed all the water, I fluffed it up and added the veggie mix, along with a drained tin of chickpeas. I would have put in two tins if I'd had them, it would have improved the texture.

Then I put the processor back together again (unrinsed) and blended:

  • a huge bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and all
  • orange juice (about a mugful)
  • lemon juice (about a half a cup)
  • 2 teaspoons rose water
  • enough olive oil to make it look like a salad dressing
  • lots of spices, biggest amount first - mixed spice, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, oregano, thyme, cardamom, nutmeg
  • three heaped teaspoons chopped garlic from the jar

until the coriander was quite finely chopped, then I poured it over the couscous.

Before I mixed it in I also added:

  • a handful of very good dried sweetened cranberries, that were almost like glace cherries
  • a mugful of raisins
  • a mugful of flaked almonds
  • half a mug of dried barberries
  • half a mug of dried pomegranate seeds
  • half a mug of raw pumpkin seeds

I stirred it all well, and topped it up by sprinkling some of the still hot water over it – when the dressing starts to get absorbed it will dry out. It felt like making a really good Christmas pudding.

Tomorrow I will taste it again, and see if it needs more salt, I don't use a lot of salt automatically anymore and tend not to add enough. Also for sweetness – it's going to be one of those things that initially tastes very sharp but has a lot of lasting sweetness in it, so the first taste might need mellowing and the longer tones sharpening – honey and onion will do that nicely. And for heat – it will need just a little kick and some more paprika or even cayenne might be in order.

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Ultra Spiced Christmas Bread

Oops. I misread teaspoons and tablespoons again, this might be a bit much. Then again, it might not, so I thought I'd better write it down. From the bread machine recipe book, with extras:

Basic White, Bake Raisin, Extra Large, 4 hours

  • 1.25 tsps yeast
  • 1 lb 5 oz strong white flour
  • 1.5  tbsps sugar
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 tbsps milk powder
  • 1.5 tsps salt
  • 400 ml water
  • In the raisin dispenser – 5 oz mixed dried fruit – today we have cranberries, blueberries, and cherries – and 3 tbsps (should be 3 tsps cinnamon) mixed spice – 1 tbsp ground cardamom, 1.5 tbsps speculaas spice, 0.5 tbsps cinnamon.

It's in the machine now, we'll see what happens …

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