Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine

I've always wanted to be the kind of domestic goddess who made chutneys to bring to dinner parties instead (or more honestly alongside) a bottle of wine. Who makes her own sloe gin and bread.

Well I'm getting there... Having never made chutney, Natalie and I decided Christmas was the perfect time to try our hands at making some....delicious.

Festive as the snow was I can't say it was much of a help as we trundled through the snow getting the ingredients from the market but by the time we had the ingredients all laid out and some cider mulling on the hob things were just peachy again.

Before we knew it we had three pans bubbling away on the hob.

As it was our first time making chutneys and jams we decided to stick with the recipes of those in the know - Nigella is responsible for the Christmas chutney and the gorgeous chilli jam and Jamie's cheeky chilli pepper chutney. Yummy. We tweaked the recipes a bit, adding half green chillis instead of all red to the chilli chutney for extra kick.

Afterword (January 11th)
So far, the presents have gone down well, best summarised by my dad (a man of few words) serving his chilli jam on the Sunday dinner table every week since he got it. Not an easy feat to achieve as he's rather particular about his Sunday suppers. Thanks dad!

Cheeky chilli pepper chutney

• 8-10 fresh red chillies

• 8 ripe red peppers

• olive oil

• 2 medium red onions, peeled and chopped

a sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

• 2 fresh bay leaves

• a 5cm piece of cinnamon stick

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 100g brown sugar

150ml balsamic vinegar

Place your chillies and peppers over a hot barbecue, in a griddle pan or on a tray under a hot grill, turning them now and then until blackened and blistered all over. Carefully lift the hot peppers and chillies into a bowl (the smaller chillies won’t take as long as the peppers so remove them first) and cover tightly with clingfilm. As they cool down, they’ll cook gently in their own steam. By the time they’re cool enough to handle, you’ll be able to peel the skin off easily.

When you’ve got rid of most of the skin, trimmed the stalks and scooped out the seeds, you’ll be left with a pile of nice tasty peppers and chillies. Finely chop by hand or put in a food processor and whiz up. Then put to one side.

Heat a saucepan and pour in a splash of olive oil. Add the onions, rosemary, bay leaves and cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook very slowly for about 20 minutes or so, until the onions become rich, golden and sticky.

Add the chopped peppers and chillies, the sugar and the vinegar to the onions and keep cooking. When the liquid reduces and you’re left with a lovely thick sticky chutney, season well to taste. Remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves. Either spoon into the sterilized jars and put them in a cool dark place, or keep in the fridge and use right away. In sterilized jars, the chutney should keep for a couple of months.

Nigella's Christmas chilli jam

150g long fresh red chillies, each deseeded and cut into about 4 pieces.
150g red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into rough chunks
1kg jam sugar
600ml cider vinegar
6 x 250ml sealable jars, with vinegar-proof lid, such as Kilner jar or re-usable pickle jar


1. Sterilize your jars and leave to cool.
2. Put the cut-up chillies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the chunks of red pepper and pulse again until you have a vibrantly red-flecked processor bowl.
3. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a wide, medium-sized pan over a low heat without stirring.
4. Scrape the chilli-pepper mixture out of the bowl and add to the pan. Bring the pan to the boil, then leave it at a rollicking boil for 10 minutes.
5. Take the pan off the heat and allow it cool. The liquid will become more syrupy, then from syrup to viscous and from viscous to jelly-like as it cools.
6. After about 40 minutes, or once the red flecks are more or less evenly dispersed in the jelly (as the liquid firms up, the hints of chilli and pepper start being suspended in it rather than floating on it), ladle into your jars. If you want to stir gently at this stage, it will do no harm. Then seal tightly.