A bit of a pickle

2014-12-06_105517835_4D485_iOS (1)Every year for the past five, I have, with another mum, run a chutney and jam stall at my son’s school Christmas fair. Come September we order hundreds of jam jars and beg other parents at the school gate to donate any gluts of fruit or veg from their back gardens or allotments, which we then turn into chutney. Do we do this because we are passionate about preserves? Absolutely not. The other mum can’t stomach the stuff even to taste the ones she makes. No, we do it because it raises shed loads of money for the school. One year, when we were match funded, we raised almost £1,500 just from the sales of our little pots. So while our kids attend the school, we feel duty bound to continue.

But here’s the thing. I fucking hate making chutney. It is complete culinary torture. For me, boiling onions in a vat of vinegar, throwing in whatever fruit or veg is at hand, is not proper cooking. There is none of that taste, add, taste, add you get in normal cooking to create a perfectly balanced flavour, because until it has ‘developed’ for a couple of months, it tastes vile and is guaranteed to make you gag.

And then there’s the smell. Those vinegar vapours have the ability to permeate every soft furnishing, every item of clothing, every hair on your head and up your nostrils. And stay there. For days.

My family, needless to say, are not impressed. I fear my husband, who thinks vinegar is the devil’s urine, will threaten divorce every time I get my preserving pan out. This year I made a point of making all the chutney while he was away on a business trip, and intended to disguise any lingering fumes by baking bread, cakes and biscuits on the day of his return. He still all but swooned when he walked through the front door.

The kids are equally disgusted, greeting me with ‘oh mum, why can’t you just stick to jam’ before running upstairs, noses tightly clenched, gaffer taping themselves into the least offensive smelling room they can find.

Over the years, I have taken steps to limit the damage to my family’s olfactory senses – and my marriage – selecting chutney recipes with the shortest cooking times (although in my experience all chutney takes at least twice as long to reduce as it states in the recipe) and the most appealing core ingredients. Piccalilli isn’t bad, as the vinegar, spice, cornflour solution needs only a couple of minutes boiling before pouring over your brined veg. However, my top pick of pickle recipes is for an Indian aubergine chutney I found in Diana Henry’s book salt sugar smoke (Mitchell Beazley) which does require a bit of vinegar boiling, but uses oil as the main preserving ingredient. It is delicious and utterly addictive, and for that, I can forgive a bit of stink.

Brinjal pickle

Geeta’s Aubergine Pickle (makes 3 x 225g jars)

img_1064

This is great served with poppadoms or alongside any curry. The recipe says this will keep up to six months, but I am still enjoying a batch I made a year ago. p.s. do not store in the fridge as the oil will solidify.

  • 2 aubergines in 1cm dice
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp each mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds
  • pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 150ml veg oil
  • 6 garlic cloves crushed
  • 5cm grated root ginger
  • 100ml cider or malt vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • handful of fresh curry leaves
  1. Put aubergines in a bowl and toss in the salt, cover and leave overnight.
  2. Toast the mustard, fennel, cumin and fenugreek seeds in a dry frying pan until they release their aromas (about 30 seconds). Grind to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and mix with the turmeric and chilli powder.
  3. Drain aubergines and squeeze as much moisture out of them as possible.
  4. Heat oil in wok or large frying pan and fry aubergines over a moderate heat until they are golden then drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Add garlic, ginger and vinegar to oil in the same pan and fry for about five minutes until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Reduce the heat and stir in the ground spices followed by the tamarind, sugar and curry leaves.
  6. Return aubergines to pan and stir well, then spoon into sterilised jars topping up with a bit more oil so that all the aubergine is submerged. Screw lids on tightly and leave to mature for a couple of days before enjoying.img_1065

 

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One thought on “A bit of a pickle

  1. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without your amazing chutneys, and the menfolk of your family moaning about the smell. Tradition, ennit!

    Your blog is brilliant. Loved reading every bit of it.

    Bro xx

    Like

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