Courgette Relish and Pickled Cherries

Courgette Relish

Wotchers!

I love vinegar. From the literal mouth-watering crunch of a cheese and pickled onion sandwich, splashed neat over hot chips, through tangy salad dressings to salt and vinegar favoured crisps.

It’s also an amazing anti-bacterial cleaning liquid and does wonders to make windows sparkle.

But I digress.

Pickling is a great way of preserving the plenty of summer to enjoy in winter. Usually this involves allowing the pickles to mature for a while, so that the harshness of the vinegar can mellow. But not always. Here are a couple of recipes that, whilst they CAN be kept to enjoy in the cooler months, you can also enjoy straight away.

The first is a courgette relish. Wonderful on barbecued meats such as burgers and sausages and for using up a glut of produce. I have always found the relish you buy in the shops too gloopy, bordering on a jelly-like consistency and always much, much too sweet. This is a version made to my own, personal tastes; less sugar, more sharpness, bit of heat and the vegetables still crunchy.

Fair warning: it involves a LOT of chopping, because I feel the end result is much more pleasing to behold. You could just put everything through a mincer, but it tends to become a bit of a homogenous mush. Chopping everything by hand means the resulting relish is fine enough to spread and the separate ingredients retain their identity both visually and in terms of flavour. Make yourself comfortable, switch on the radio and before you know it, it will be done.

Courgette Relish

This makes about 4 x 500ml jars of relish. The amount will, of course, depend on the sizes of the vegetables you start with.

6 large courgettes
4 onions
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 red chillies
2 green chillies
100g salt
450g light brown sugar
400ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seed
1.5 tsp turmeric powder

  • Cut the courgettes lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft, spongy centre and seeds. Discard.
  • Chop the courgettes into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • Peel the onions and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • De-seed and chop the peppers and the chillies and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces. Add the chilli seeds if you like your relish hot.
  • Put all of the vegetables into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside to drain for 1-2 hours.
  • Strain the liquid from the vegetables. Rinse the bowl and return the vegetables to it.
  • Fill the bowl with water and swish the vegetables around. Drain.
  • Rinse and drain the vegetables again. Thoroughly. Then once more for good measure. It is tempting to skip this thorough rinsing, but if you do, the result will be an excessively salty relish.  Do you really want to chop another mound of vegetables quite so soon?
  • Rinse your jars with hot water and place in the oven, with their lids. Turn the temperature to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Taste the sugar/vinegar mixture and decide if it needs adjusting either with a little more sugar or a little more vinegar. You can also add more after the vegetables have cooked, but better to get it close to what you like beforehand.
  • When you are happy with the flavour, add the drained, rinsed vegetables and simmer gently until the courgettes become translucent.
  • Taste again and adjust sugar/vinegar levels as necessary.
  • Spoon into hot jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately

Pickled Cherries

Pickled Cherries

This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library -page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings.

Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to tempt me to try. The recipe also calls for the very best heart cherries, which are cherries that have a soft and rounded heart shape. A bit of research into old varieties reveals that heart cherries could be both dark or pale. I’ve gone with dark, and used a little red wine in place of the original water, in order to help preserve the colour of the fruit. If you can get pale dessert cherries, then swap the red wine for white.

The original recipe contained no sugar, which was a bit much even for a vinegar-lover like myself, so I have tweaked the recipe and added a little brown sugar to soften the flavour.

Pickled Cherries

2kg dark purple cherries
540ml light fruit vinegar – I used home-made gooseberry, but you could use whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the fruit. A white balsamic, for example
180ml red wine
6tbs dark muscovado sugar
3 blades of mace
1 tbs dried dill
½ tsp salt

  • Stone the cherries and arrange them neatly in concentric circles in the bottom of a preserving pan. There should be enough to make a full single layer covering the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the sugar, mace, dill and salt.
  • Gently pour in the vinegar and red wine. This should just cover the cherries.  If you need more liquid add it in the proportion of 3 parts vinegar, 1 part wine.
  • Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, until the cherries are just tender but still holding their shape.
  • Gently spoon the cherries into sterilised jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately with ham and terrines, as well as fatty meats such as roast lamb, duck and pork.

Bacon Jam

BLT with Bacon Jam

Wotchers!

Bacon Jam has been around for a while on these here Internets, and there are numerous ways of preparing it. It is a highly savoury spread or relish that can be used in a multitude of ways. In the picture you can see a BLT toast sandwich prepared with bacon jam – much speedier than grilling bacon rashers. You can also stir it through rice or pasta for a frugal insta-meal, use it to top baked potatoes or spread over the bread of your fried egg sandwich.

This recipe is my own, and very much from the That’ll Do™ School of Cooking, in that you can be as extravagant or as miserly as you like, with the ingredients that you have.

You can also customise it to your own personal tastes – mine stretch to a few fresh red chillies to add a bit of feisty heat and to catch the eye, strong coffee, some Henderson’s Relish for sharpness and, contrary to a great many recipes, no added sugar (the kecap manis is sweet enough). Just because it’s called jam doesn’t mean you have to drown it in sugar. Call it a jam for all the things you can spread it on/in.

You can choose any cut of bacon you like: streaky rashers, back bacon, smoked or unsmoked. Personally I buy cooking bacon as it is ridiculously cheap (less than £2/kg). Some supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) occasionally have packs of cooking bacon that contain the trimmings and ends of gammon joints, and if you turn the packs over and there is a hint of orange about the meat, then you’ve got some smoked bacon in the mix. Others are just filled with chopped bacon trimmings, so it can be worthwhile rummaging around, as each batch can vary.

I cannot stress enough how much the recipe below is a rough framework. Got more bacon? Bung it in. Like caramelised onions? Add more. Garlic fiend? Shove a load in.

I prefer to blitz my bacon jam in the food processor down to the consistency of pesto. It makes it much easier, not to mention quicker, when using it in other things, but you might prefer to keep it chunky, so the individual ingredients can still be discerned.

Whilst this recipe WILL make some delicious bacon jam, it is what *I* consider delicious bacon jam, which might be quite far removed from what YOU consider delicious bacon jam. So you will probably need to tweak it to your own personal tastes. Below you will find a list of spices and relishes that you can add to find tune the basic recipe.

Important points to remember:

  • There is no right or wrong way to make bacon jam – it it totally up to you and your tastebuds.
  • Speaking of which, you HAVE to taste it as you go, and then decide firstly if it needs anything extra, and secondly, what that extra thing might be.
  • Don’t feel you have to add 101 extra ingredients – it is, first and foremost, supposed to taste of bacon. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • Another don’t – Don’t forget to write down what you add, as you might hit on a million pound winning combination and want to recreate it later!

This would make an ideal home-made gift for the upcoming festive season: just pack the finished hot jam into a hot, sterilised jar and seal with a layer of bacon grease/lard/clarified butter. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge if no-one knows what it tastes like. Good luck with that. 😉

This and the next few recipes are my contribution towards festive baking and making – delicious additions to your own table, delightful as presents for others. I hope you enjoy!

Suggestions for flavourings for your Bacon Jam

In addition to – or even instead of – the ingredients in the recipe below, you could add some of the following

  • Onions – brown, white, French, vidalia, red, shallots, spring onions, chives, garlic
  • Spices – chilli powder, coriander, cumin, paprika (sweet/smoked/hot), cayenne, mustard(dry, mixed, wholegrain, dijon, artisan), ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace
  • Sauces – Worcester sauce, anchovy essence, mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, light/dark soy (be careful, as v. salty, as is bacon), oyster sauce, Tabasco, hot sauce, sweet chilli
  • Sweeteners (just because I don’t like them, doesn’t mean you have to miss out – go easy, though) Maple syrup, light-brown sugar, muscovado sugar, treacle, molasses, agave nectar
  • Liquids – cider, beer ale, stout, whisky, brandy, ginger wine, bourbon, balsamic/sherry/rice/black/cider/red wine/white wine vinegar

Bacon  Jam

Bacon Jam should be warmed before use, to bring out the flavours. A quick zap in the microwave or toss in a pan is all it takes.

700g cooking bacon
2 onions, peeled and chopped – or halved & cut in semi-circles if you’re not blitzing to a pesto
4 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely diced.
250ml strong coffee
60ml kecap manis
2-3tbs Henderson’s Relish
1tsp coarse ground black pepper

  • Put the bacon into a pan and cook over medium heat. Use a spatula to break it up into smaller pieces. You can cook it as long or as short as you like, but I prefer well done, with specks of rusty caramelisation starting to appear, and the fat fully rendered.
  • Lift the bacon from the pan with a skimmer and drain in a metal sieve.
  • Add the onions and chillies and cook in the bacon fat ( for added flavour) until softened and caramelised. If you have a large excess of fat after the bacon has cooked, then drain some of it off, but I’ve never had that problem. Of course, this will also depend on the quantity of bacon you’re cooking.
  • Return the bacon to the pan and add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse pesto.
  • If you think there is too much liquid, return to the pan and simmer gently until the excess has evaporated.
  • Taste and add further flavourings as liked.
  • Spoon into jars and seal. Add a layer of melted fat if liked, to aid preservation.
  • Store in the fridge and use on everything.

 


Cheese and Potato Pies

Cheese and Potato Pies

Wotchers!

I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.

I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.

The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.

I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.

These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.

Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney

1 large egg, whisked

Individual foil pie dishes

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the potatoes into centimetre  cubes and put into a bowl.
  • Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
  • Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
  • Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
  • Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
  • Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
  • Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
  • Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Strawberry Chutney

Strawberry Chutney aka Fragolaceto

Wotchers!

Today’s recipe is for strawberry chutney – or as the Italians call it: Fragolaceto! (I think the exclamation mark is compulsory) – which sounds far more poetic.

Actually, it’s not really a traditional chutney at all, since there’s neither onions nor spices here, just fruit, sugar and balsamic vinegar. This traditional Italian preserve is one of those unusual dishes that can sit on the fence between sweet and savoury and go quite happily with both.

You could warm it up and use it as a topping for ice-cream or perhaps a cheesecake – but my favourite way to enjoy it is with cheese and biscuits. A nice, strong cheddar, a crisp oatcake and a dollop of this – oh my!

It’s very simple and quick to make – just over an hour for this relatively small quantity – and depending on the size of your strawberries, about 250ml, or just over one cup. An ideal amount to decide whether you think this is as awesome as I do.

Allowing the strawberries to sit in the sugar first, and removing them after 20 minutes simmering helps the pieces keep their shape and prevents them from disintegrating during cooking.

I love the sound of the word ‘Fragolaceto’ (pronounced fraggo-la-SEE-toe), but  I think ‘strawberry chutney’ sounds more intriguing. Nevertheless, it might be easier to convince someone to have a spoonful of ‘Fragolaceto’ on their ice-cream!

Strawberry Chutney – Fragolaceto
500g strawberries
125g sugar
3tbs liquid pectin
60 ml balsamic vinegar

Equipment
bowl
Frying pan
skimmer or slotted spoon
sieve
sterilised jar and lid

  • Wash and hull the strawberries.
  • Quarter the strawberries – if they are large, cut again. Pieces should be about 2cm.
  • Put the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle over the sugar. Toss gently, then cover and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the sugar to draw out the juices.
  • Pour the strawberry mixture into a wide, shallow pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the strawberry pieces and place into the sieve over a bowl. Once the syrup has dripped through, pour it back into the pan.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar and pectin and simmer for a further 20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. The less liquid you have, the firmer the final preserve will set. If you want to use it as a dessert topping, I suggest making it on the runny side. You can always thicken it later if need be.
  • Return the strawberries to the pan and fold into the syrup. If it looks really too runny for your liking, strain the liquid from the fruit and simmer a little longer.
  • Pour into sterilised jar and seal whilst hot.

Cost: £1.82 (July 2011, Pick Your Own strawberries £3.00/kg)