Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A slow and smelly (in a good way) Saturday

One of the reasons I love cooking is the process – of course I love tucking into a nice meal at the end of it but it is as much about the actual cooking as it is about the product... Methodical, (mostly) relaxing and intensely therapeutic, it’s pretty much the most calming thing I know how to do.

And there are few things more therapeutic than cooking up a batch of chutneys and pickles on a Saturday afternoon, which is why Natalie and I have decided to put together a batch once a month.

This month’s batch included the ever-popular chilli jam I blogged about in December, a red onion marmalade and something a bit different in the form of an Indian lime pickle. I have to confess I am slightly obsessed with lime pickle and have been known to eat it straight out of the jar with my fingers (the horror), the idea of being able to make several jars of the good stuff rather excited me....

So, Saturday afternoon was once more spent trudging around Croydon gathering the necessary ingredients for the cook off. I’m not going to lie, running around in the bitter cold and both of us nursing a hangover it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience but by the time we settled down with some red wine and got down to the fun stuff later on it might just have been worth it.

First up was the red onion marmalade which involved chopping a prodigious amount of the buggers until both of us were in tears. Tears of laughter aided by my rather rude interpretations of the last doofus I went on a date with – his hot and cold approach could have given Katy Perry a run for her money. So much for a new year and new start, looks like I’ll be regaling you fine folk with my disastrous date tales for a while longer and that’s just fine by me...

Onions chopped and tears duly wiped, we sweated the onions with garlic, thyme leaves, chilli flakes and seasoning for an hour until limp, lifeless and gorgeously sweet before dumping in a bottle of red wine and some golden caster sugar and letting it bubble away for a while.

In the meantime – we were eyeing up the challenge of the lime pickle which started with frying the limes whole before chopping them into slices and trying to dart away from the random spurts of hot lime juice erupting from them in the process.

Making the pickle wasn’t too difficult, the recipe below is a ‘quick’ lime pickle recipe so will only take an hour. I’ve just tucked into some with a few slices of gammon a week later and can tell you it’s only getting better as each day goes by.

Just a hint though, maybe don’t make the same mistake I did and go out dancing after knocking up the pickle. Four hours of sweaty jumping around left me, rather upsettingly, in a fug of fenugreek fumes. It’s not sexy nor is it even particularly pleasant :P

The finished picture

Red Onion Marmalade
Adapted from Good Food Recipe for the same
2kg red onions or regular onions
4 garlic cloves
120g butter
4 tbsp olive oil
140g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of chilli flakes
85cl bottle red wine
350ml red wine vinegar
50ml balsamic vinegar

Halve and thinly slice the onions, and garlic. Melt the butter with the oil over a high heat. Tip in the onions and garlic and ensure they are covered with butter. Sprinkle over the sugar, thyme leaves, chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Give everything another really good stir and reduce the heat slightly. Cook uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the wine and vinegars and simmer everything, still uncovered, over a high heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring every so often until the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. Leave the onions to cool in the pan, then scoop into sterilised jars and seal. Can be eaten straight away, but keeps in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Quick lime pickle recipe
Adapted from

500 grams of green chillies (we like ours super hot but if you don’t, use half red and half green chillies)
200 grams chopped fresh ginger
15 chopped garlic cloves
6 chopped fresh curry leaves
4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp mustard seed
2 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
3 cups vegetable oil (If you have mustard oil, use 2 cups vegetable oil and 1 cup mustard oil)
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
Preparation for this lime pickle recipe
Make sure you have sterilised jars and lids prepared for bottling. They must be thoroughly dried!
The method for the quick lime pickle recipe
Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan until hot.
Sauté the limes turning them over until their skins are a golden brown.
Dry the limes and cut them into about 6 thick slices and then half the slices.
Put 2 Tbsp of oil into a blender, add the chillis, chopped curry leaves, chopped garlic, chopped ginger and curry leaves. Blend to a paste
Heat the rest of the oil in a pan until hot. Add mustard and fenugreek. Heat the seeds until they pop open.
Add the paste, stir and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
Add the turmeric, pieces of lime and vinegar and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Using a slotted ladle or spoon, put the limes into jars, and pour the remaining fluid over the limes ensuring they are just covered.
Stir to remove any air bubbles and seal jars.