Thursday, 20 February 2014

Chutney time....

Today is raining so plans to go outside to do long overdue weeding are being put to one side - no real effort in that decision. It's the first rain in a while and very welcome - I have rain tanks for my water supply so I'm reliant upon the seasons and what they bring. So today I'll prepare some food for Winter. I sometimes think it's a good idea to prepare food when I'm hungry..I think of the flavours and how it will taste and I sure I become more creative.

 CHUTNEY..well Spiced Pear Chutney to be precise. Not all this stuff is going into the one chutney. The wine is for me! Once I started to see what I had to use up I realised I'm going to have a go at different types.

I've green tomatoes from a plant that wasn't doing so well and in looking for a suitable recipe for those I found one that uses peaches (good ol' Delia Smith). I've used up all my own supply of peaches so went to a local Charity Shop to drop off some items for them and saw bags of them for $2 a bag of 8 ..they'll be organic most like. And they looked better than mine uff!

 So, I'm going to put the recipe here for the first one (Spiced Pear Chutney). Pretty much a standard recipe except looking at one a few years back from Gordon Ramsay, I liked some of his 'additions' e.g fresh tomatoes tomatoes towards the end. Chutnies are very easy once one understands the basics: acid (vinegar) to preserve, heat (as in boiling) to remove the natural enzymes that will encourage food to spoil and also create potentially nasty health problems and boiling also to concentrate the flavours and achieve the right consistency. Sugar to counterbalance the sharpness of the vinegar. Pinched from India by the Brits chutnies are originally Hindu in origin and using that source certainly helps me understand what flavours can be used, especially the spices. The only hesitation for me is the heat common in Indian foods, specifically chilli. Just can't handle it. In my defence - if I actually needed to defend my dislike - Indian palates are accustomed to such heat and mine isn't; I also think that such a sensory overload masks other wonderful flavours e.g clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. So I change such recipes to suit my own preferences.

OK..the original recipe is:

2 Onions
2 Apples
8 or 9 Pears depending on size
2 large handsful of sultanas
4 Oranges, juice and grated rind
4 Tomatoes

Grated ginger - about 2 teaspoons, more if you wish
Ground clove 2 teaspoons
Ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons
Grated nutmeg - about 1/2 teaspoon
Saffron strands
Cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon

Other stuff:
500ml vinegar, Malt or white or wine by preference and budget
400g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil for cooking

First off, I change some of the components: I've dropped the type of sugar and cayenne pepper as I always try and be a bit healthier, especially with sugar: I rarely use white and mostly avoid recipes that use white unless I can substitute. If chutnies are dark in colour then use raw. The flavours are better anyway. The amounts seem huge; remember though that the goal is to concentrate the flavours and achieve a blend that stimulates the palate and the mix will reduce markedly.

 Firstly, chop and peel all the fruit except the oranges. Sweat the onion over a gentle heat  in a suitable amount of olive oil and when almost clear add the spices (not the saffron) mix and then add the sugar. Doing it this way allows the sugar to melt correctly and gradually. It should look like this..like treacle.

Once this has happened add the vinegar. Then add all the chopped fruit and sultanas except for the tomatoes which go in last. Grate the oranges over the mix - this is where you get wonderful heady scents and an idea of how it will be - then cut them in half and squeeze to add the juice. Add the saffron and now boil until reduced to the ideal consistency. One of the ways to test is if you 'draw' a line across with a spatula, a channel should form and last for a few seconds and without filling with liquid i.e hold it's shape.

The one on the left was made last week with white vinegar; this batch is darker as malt was used. Given it's pear e.g. lighter and more subtle I think I prefer the appearance on the one made last week. This batch certainly has a more mellow flavour by comparison but both are delicious. Ideally store for 1 - 3 months in a cupboard or darkened area to let the layers of flavour develop. It made 2 x 750ml jars and one 500ml jar.

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