It’s been an…
eventful uneventful week! I’ve been ill with a virus and somehow lost my phone inside my Great-Grandfather’s (battered) old armchair and so have been off instagram and out of the loop for a while. It was pretty weird, I don’t know how it physically happened really as I hardly even sit in the chair, the gap is so tight and the phone had a rubber case on it. It’s one of those, OMG do poltergeists actually exist moments that is quite odd, but it did it’s thing, and now it’s back! It’s a knackered old phone with virtually no signal round here anyway so to be honest being without the stress of it was nice!! I can’t tell you how many times I try to post on instagram and it doesn’t work, it’s so frustrating! Country-life in the hills. And the rain, everywhere else has had sun and we have a peek of sun in-between showers, they call it ‘the Peak dump’. Nice. But then it’s so lush and green and gorgeous that I can’t complain too much, can I? I’m so much looking forward to, fingers-crossed, some sun!!!
On a definitely sunny note I’m so excited to share today’s recipe and I urge you to make it! I had others lining up but this has pushed to the front of the queue it is just so gloriously good! I’ve always been a chutney lover (say that in a Norfolk or Cambridgeshire Fen accent). Chutney and cheese in a sandwich with curly lettuce, chutney and baked potato with cream cheese and a good salad, that’s my idea of food happiness. Simple pleasures. And I can find it still. Vegan cheese, buckwheat bread, baked sweet potato and cashew cream with chives. I haven’t seen a vegan and soya free alternative to brie… anyone? But chutney all can enjoy. It makes a meal special, it’s one of those foods that just ticks all the boxes for me. Rich, sweet, sour and spiced, and this red cherry chutney is just obsessively good. You’ll be thinking up ways in which you can incorporate it into yet more meals. Or eating ploughman sandwiches every day. It wasn’t until this year or so that I started making my own and it’s one of my favourite things to do in the kitchen, it’s so satisfying. I always loved chemistry at school, mixing things together, the adventure of it, it feels like that only even more fun because you get to make something delicious to eat, and something that will go so far. It makes a great gift too, and is so easy to personalise, to make with what you have and what you like. Here I’ve used szechuan red peppercorn roughly ground, which adds a fruity zing that tingles on your tongue, and pairs beautifully with the sweet sourness of red cherries, bramley apple, red onion, balsamic vinegar, black peppercorn and spices, and makes a rich, fruity, tangy chutney.
Making chutney brings a draft of memories of summer moments when I was a child, of my parents, especially my Dad, brewing up a great vat from green tomatoes or the like, that sour acerbic tang that was so strong and exciting. As a child you’re warned to keep away because it’s hot! I remember so much enthusiasm and excitement, movement from the utility room through to the kitchen. It is exciting to make, it’s an event, especially if you’re making a lot. And if you’re using your own abundant produce it must be such a good feeling to have its goodness sealed away purposefully in a row of jars, labelled and ready to last. Tasting so much better than anything you can buy from a factory, and so easy and satisfying to make.
This recipe is for a small batch of two 350ml mason jars. I find if you haven’t lots of fruit and vegetables that need preserving, making smaller batches more frequently leads to more experimentation and variation. We buy in our fruit and vegetables and have small amounts of each usually so a smaller batch is perfect for us, but do multiply the recipe if you want to make a bigger batch.
Cherries are such a treat for me, it’s always a real disappointment to find that they’re too sour or lacking in sweetness. But such fruit are perfect for chutney. I had been meaning to perfect a new fruit chutney recipe and they triggered the process. I had some Bramley apples that had been a bit neglected, we had been meaning to make date stuffed baked apples for weeks (I love them with cold coconut yoghurt) and they had started to wax. Again, whack them in the chutney! Cooking apples are a great sour base for chutney, adding body and fruity flavour. Paired with onion, red or white, vinegar and sugar (brown sugar is delicious if you eat cane sugar, also coconut sugar for a similar non-refined sugar, date syrup would be delicious, or you can use fructose, which though lacking in any goodness has half the Glycemic Load of coconut sugar or refined sugar) and you have the basic ingredients for a delicious chutney right there.
Since having to give up all nightshades which includes chile and paprika, I’ve been hunting around for alternatives. I bought a load of Szechuan red peppercorns on the internet (turned out to be literally a life-times worth), expecting them to be super fiery like Szechuan cuisine, but they are very mild with no discernible heat and a fruity zing that tingles on your tongue. Perfect for this chutney. I’ve also used roughly ground black peppercorns for heat, and allspice, all else is sweet and sour and rich with a powerful spiced fruit zing.
Saute the onions until caramelised and then add spices and stir to release their aroma. I use freshly ground spices, or recently ground, I have a little spice grinder, it whizzes them up in a flash and I’m good to go. The difference in flavour and aroma is so noticeable, and also as a severe coeliac I know they’re free from gluten which most spices aren’t, as (without labeling) they often add wheat flour as a bulking agent.
Chutney’s flavour improves over the weeks, as with so much savoury food the flavours imbue and it tastes better given time, but really this chutney is delicious the same day too, so if you can’t wait then dig in!
Eat with with nut cheese (try this or this) in a salad sandwich, with a burger or with crackers, or with a baked sweet potato and cashew sour cream or coconut cream cheese and chives… let me know how you liked to eat it ♥
- 2 med-large red onions
- about 25 cherries
- 2 cooking apples, I use Bramley
- generous 1/2 cup seedless raisins
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar, I use raw (which is milder so use less of non-raw)
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 3 generous tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup natural sugar
- 4 heaped tsp szechuan red peppercorns
- 2 heaped tsp coarsley ground black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp allspice
Roughly chop the onions and saute in olive oil and the salt on a low heat with the lid on for 20 mins or so, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft.
Peel and dice the apple into rough chunks, stone the cherries. Keeping them as halves or whole is fine. Add the (ideally freshly ground) spices first and stir for a minute or so, and then add the sugar, fruit and vinegar.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 mins or so, reducing down. Crush the soft apple with your wooden spoon, easily blending it into the chutney.
Sterilise your clean jam jars or mason jars in the oven on a low heat, and when ready to fill them, place them on a clean tea-towel. Make sure your hands and all utensils are clean. Spoon or pour in the chutney, filling to the top and lid, the heat will seal the jar.
They should keep well, if in doubt, keep in the fridge, and they will taste best after they have sat for a few weeks, but are absolutely delicious straight away too!
Store it in the fridge once you've opened it.
I use raw cider vinegar because that's what we have in our larder but actually for chutney there's little difference except that raw is milder than non raw, the cooking process takes away the enzymes of the mother in the raw vinegar.
SONG OF THE WEEK… The Herbaliser ‘Let It Go’ (ft. What What)